The holidays are often less than merry if you have to deal with things like balancing work with travel, financial stress or seasonal affective disorder. I usually cope by listening to Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December” over and over and over again. This year, however, I also plan to make visual journaling app LifeCrumbs part of my daily routine. Made by a startup called Tomofun, LifeCrumbs was created around the idea that even on the gloomiest of days, there is always at least one good moment to salvage. The free iOS app, which will launch its Android version soon, lets you turn those moments into a visual calendar filled with photos of good memories.
Founded by Victor Chang and based in Taipei, Tomofun’s mission is to build products that “find joy in the ordinary.” LifeCrumbs is actually the startup’s second product; the first app they built never left the prototype stage because it did not receive enough positive feedback to justify a launch.
After that disappointment, Tomofun’s team decided to regroup by going to the Philippines and spending summer 2012 volunteering with a homebuilding program.
“I met a five-year-old girl who had just lost her dad in a typhoon. When I gave her a cookie, she took that cookie, ran back to her family and split it six ways with them. Then she ran back to me, split it in half again, smiled and said thank you,” said Chang. “That changed my life because it made me realize you don’t need a lot in life to be happy. That notion was so inspiring that I wanted to share it with other people.”
Inspired by that moment, Tomofun began working on a journaling app to let people record meaningful moments from each day after returning to Taiwan. LifeCrumbs launched in closed beta in October 2012 before opening to the public last August. Since then, the team has continued to incorporate feedback from users and redesigned the app to make it even more visually oriented. LifeCrumbs is integrated with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so you can select updates from each network to import. Tomofun is currently self-funded and exploring several revenue models for LifeCrumbs, including selling sticker sets and letting users order their photo calendars as prints and other products.
There are a lot of other great apps that are designed to make journaling easy and pleasurable for busy smartphone users. Some standouts include Step Journal (which I profiled in May), Day One, Momento and Gratitude365.
LifeCrumbs seeks to differentiate by creating a positive and upbeat community within the app. The official LifeCrumbs account uploads inspirational quotes and photos each day and users gain points for uploading status updates and photos (though they can also choose to make their journals private). The team plans to launch more engagement features and activities like hashtag prompts to encourage people to upload and comment on photos around the same theme.
The idea of keeping a gratitude journal or participating in a community filled with people intent on finding a memorable moment during even the cruddiest of days might seem cloying or (for the more curmudgeonly among us) even downright horrifying. But it can pay off. Researchers have found that keeping gratitude journals encourages healthier habits, better sleep and can even improve emotional and physical resilience.
I also like the idea of having a safe place to indulge my inner Pollyanna without being accused of being an “Instasham” or irritating my wider group of Facebook friends. LifeCrumb users have dedicated their visual calendars to daily updates about their children, pets, weight loss progress or best meals. Some have even turned the calendar into a budgeting tool by taking photos of what they bought (or didn’t buy). If you update your LifeCrumbs journal regularly (or at least go back and fill in the days that you missed), then by the end of a few weeks you’ll have a collection of about 30 good moments to enjoy at a glance (even if the month was otherwise lackluster).
“People kept coming back and letting us know that it is great to be able to see your memories laid out in a calendar format,” says Maggie Cheung, LifeCrumbs’ community manager and Tomofun’s director of social marketing. “Each visual acts like a mnemonic to bring back the memory.”