“Come on Get Happy” may be the theme to ‘70s sitcom The Partridge Family, but it’s also the mission statement behind Thrive Cleveland, which calls itself the world’s first happiness incubator.
The Cleveland-based, 20-person creative team embraces the contagious nature of social connections to help people connect to their own happiness and vitalize families and communities. What may sound like a fake infomercial or spoof from The Simpsons is based on data. That is, scientists have determined 50 percent of our individual happiness is determined by DNA, while 10 percent is determined by environment. This leaves 40 percent of happiness left to choice.
That’s where the Thrive-Box comes into play. For $39 (this really does sound like an infomercial), you can buy a box of happiness for yourself or, even better, give those curmudgeons in your life a blueprint to turn that frown upside down.
CoolCleveland talked to Cleveland Heights resident Jen Margolis, who along with Scott Simon co-founded Thrive Cleveland.
CoolCleveland: OK, let’s start with the Thrive Box? What are we talking about?
Jen Margolis: It’s a happiness experience box designed by Thrive. We design experiences that spread happiness in the Cleveland area and beyond. And so we created the box because of the science behind giving.
It’s not stuff that makes us happy. It’s actually experiences that make us happy so our team took some time to really think about, if we could box up the five or six most powerful happiness practices that we could think of, what would they be? So you open up this box and inside it looks like a bento box and there are six different happiness practices – be mindful, savor, give, cherish, feel gratitude, and stretch yourself – and each one is meant to sort of bring to life by yourself or with the people you love amazing experiences that can really make you happier.
Can you give a few examples of what we’ll find in a happiness box?
Each of those practices have a little compartment in this box. So mindful practice has some beautifully designed meditation oils. For stretch yourself, you can learn something such as juggling. The savor is actually ingredients and a recipe designed by Doug Katz of Fire to make a really happy treat. There’s a gratitude journal with instructions around the science behind a journal.
What is Thrive?
We are a local organization. We design experiences in the community that spread happiness. So it’s everything from farm-to-table experiences to lunch-planned dance parties downtown to interactive happiness practice workshops. We have a street team now you’ll see around the city doing pop-up hula-hooping experiences to make people smile. For Thanksgiving, that team went out and gave people who had to work little gift cards to show appreciation.
We have a huge lineup for 2015 we’re really excited about. Part of that has also evolved into Thrive at Work, which is our workplace practice. So we’re working locally with some really big companies to design experiences to increase happiness at work for people. Everything we do is rooted in a science of what makes people happy.
Let me ask, when describing your group’s mission, does it usually include a lot of eye rolls from people?
You know, I have to say there are always a few skeptics, for sure, but we’ve had an incredibly positive response. I think part of it is that we’re all looking for happiness and the way we define happiness is the intersection between meaning and pleasure. So it’s like this balance in our life between finding joy and experiencing meaningful moments.
The real question is whether or not you’re happy?
That’s a question I always get. [laughs] I quit my job at the end of last year and dove full time into Thrive this year and I haven’t been happier. I think part of it is the creating piece of this. The other part is to share this work and give it to people. This makes me incredibly happy.
When he’s not writing about music or entertainment, he can be found coaching his two boys in basketball, football and baseball or watching movies with his lovely wife, Maria. John also occasionally writes for CoolCleveland.com.