Track Your Happiness

As I mentioned in the last happiness post, this one would be following up with the TED talk “What to be happier stay in the moment” by Matt Killingsworth. Here is the link if you are interested in watching the video for yourself.

In my last semester of University I took a 400 level positive psychology class. For those unfamiliar with positive psychology it is a branch of psychology aimed at studying, “positive emotions, positive character traits and enabling institutions” (1)  Unlike other fields of psychology, positive psychology is not aimed at relieving suffering but rather to increase happiness (1).

Throughout the semester, we discussed mindfulness a lot and I plan on looking into mindfulness a bit further in future posts so I won’t delve into it now except to simply say that mindfulness at a core level is exactly as it sounds. Staying in the moment, being mindful of the experiences that are occurring around you right now. For example, if I am mindful of this moment I notice the clip-clop sounds of my dogs claws on the lino floor, the sound of the CN train in the distance, the slight pain in my lower back, my baby moving, the texture of the keyboard under my fingers. This is extreme mindfulness though but serves as an example of what I mean by the word.

Whether we like it or not we live in a fast paced technological world and unless we are willing to relocate to another slower paced country this is a reality we must face. I received my first cell phone when I was 16 or 17. I purchased the original iPhone several years ago and have upgraded my phone as Apple has come out with new products. In my house of just 2 people we have 2 tvs, 2 tablets, 2 iPhones, 2 Desktop computers and 2 laptops (granted one of the laptops has a cracked screen and doesn’t work so well….) the point remains I do not know how to live without technology, a sentiment I know many would agree with.

So back to the point. In the TED talk, Dr. Killingsworth introduces us to http://www.trackyourhappiness.org This website works by sending you random notifications throughout the day (to your phone) and asks you questions such as how happy are you right now? What are you doing right now? Are you thinking about something other than what you are doing? etc. The goal of this site is to get real-life, real-time data on what you are doing and the degree of happiness that accompanies it. This site is free and a wonderful tool. It allows you to track you actual levels of happiness while building up more data for Matt and his colleagues to work with and discover more about happiness.

I have this set up to ask me questions every 6 months to continue to monitor what is making me happy. I think this is important because rarely do I ever say hmmmm I’m at the dog park I must be really happy rather I think, “OMG it’s so hot…I’m exhausted…why didn’t I bring a water bottle? etc.” But ironically enough, the dog park is the number one location in which I report being happy, followed secondly by volunteering at a probation office (hence part of my decision to become a probation officer). But yet here are some of my results.

LOCATION & HAPPINESS

Chart?chs=310x310&cht=bhg&chco=0088cc&chxt=y%2cx&chxl=0%3a%7cin+a+car%7cvolunteer+vsu%7cvolunteer+vsu%7cin+a+mall%7cat+work%7cschool%7cwedding%7cat+home%7cvolunteer+probation%7cdog+park&chxr=1%2c0%2c100&chxs=0%2c666666%2c10%7c1%2c666666%2c10&chd=s%3a8tmmkfcuig&chbh=20

What am I doing & Happiness

Chart?chs=310x562&cht=bhg&chco=0088cc&chxt=y%2cx&chxl=0%3a%7cbuilding+furniture%7cwalking%2c+taking+a+walk%7cgrooming%2c+self+care%7ccommuting%2c+traveling%7crelaxing%2c+nothing+special%7cdoing+housework%7ceating%7crest%2fsleep%7cpreparing+food%7cwatching+television%7cshopping%2c+errands%7creading%7chome+computer%7cworking%7cplaying%7ctalking%2c+conversation%7cwaiting+for+the+dr%7cgetting+ready+to+go%7cmaking+love&chxr=1%2c0%2c100&chxs=0%2c666666%2c10%7c1%2c666666%2c10&chd=s%3a98yvuutttrrrommgccc&chbh=20

While this may look straight forward, of course I would be happiest during sex (No I did not stop half way through to answer the questions…) and least happy building furniture (seriously ikea?) but getting ready to go? Waiting for the Dr? These are not things one usually associates with happiness.  There is also a lot of data out there saying we are least happy when we are commuting (which is shown by my data as well).

I admit I am rushing to finish this post as I need to go to bed and I am leaving for camping tomorrow so I won’t be able to write for a couple of days but hey. That gives you 2 days to watch the TED Talk and create an account on trackmyhappiness.org and get started. Find out what is making you the happiest in your day-to-day life. You’ll notice my happiest levels are around 95-100% that’s some serious happy! And I put a lot of work into that. Figure out your happiness and your areas of unhappiness. I can give you some pointers and tips to leading a truly happy life when you have this data (and no I don’t need you to share…the data is pretty damn personal!)

(1) Seligman, M. E. P., Steen T.A., Park N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421

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