Tracking Your Happiness is a State of Mind
I thought I'd join in.
Each time I got a text I had to stop (if it was safe) and fill out a short quiz. They popped in at all times of the day and night. Questions ranged from charting my state of mind from very happy to very unhappy, to other more detailed requests as to where I was, who I was interacting with, did I feel lonely, did I like my job, to did I sleep well? Although I exceeded my meager text allowance for the month (causing some scrambling to change my plan), I was able to answer most of them on time. I wonder what that says about me? Rule-following Canadian? People-pleaser? Curious subject? Hmmmm
Three weeks and about 75 surveys later when I finished Round One and was released for six months. In that time I probably learned as much as Killingsworth about what makes me happy and the results, which were sent to me after I had completed the first round of questionnaires, were surprising.
I'm a bit of a worrywart (what is the entomology of that word??) and tended to remember these pearls of anxiety when charting my past, but I discovered during this process that my warting apparently is limited to short durations, usually right before I fall asleep, and they don't linger. Yes, I do have crises to manage at other times of the day, for one thing being the president of a school PTO is no cakewalk, but these moments of angst are also fairly contained. It was the act of having to quantify my feelings at random times during the day that revealed I may have emotional ups and downs, they are quixotic, intense, but not malingering. Capturing unhappiness in my day wasn't easy. Most of the time when asked, I felt pretty good. Happy.
What I came to realize, the part that surprised me, is that I actually was very good at shutting down the spinning wheel of anxiety as I worked through a problem, or after a reasonable time. I'd either solved the particular dilemma, or shelved it for later review. I knew this to be true because when asked a mere hour later about my happiness level, it had returned to normal. There have been certain problems that lingered in the past, but for the most part, I had figured out how to put them aside with a bit of directed meditation and a conscious choice to stay in the present. Drinking a good cup of coffee, eating one of Jacaranda's amazing scones, talking with a friend, brushing my daughter's hair, holding my husband's hand -the present is mostly pleasant. Bingo!
I wonder what my data will reveal when added to the thousands of other results. I now know, for example, that I often have and want to do things at the same time, because they asked about this all the time. I think that's good. Except for today when I came home and found piles of wet poop all over the bedroom rug, which I stepped on and tracked around like a smelly bear. Cleaning this up was not a have-to-want-to example. But many other tasks, like getting up in the dark to make breakfast for Sweetpea, taking her to school with my hair standing on end, toiling away at the gym, these are things I both have and want to do. Apparently being satisfied with your life, no matter what it is, is one major key to happiness.
According to early data released by the study, entrepreneurs score best on the happiness scale - I guess being the boss has its perks, though who knows who is absorbing the unhappiness trickling down to the lower ranks who must obey and protect their paychecks. As a writer, I'm technically an entrepreneur, or at least I don't have a boss to answer to anymore and this lack of an overseer has definitely taken one major stress out of my life.
While I was taking this survey I had to answer some pretty intimate questions about my life and because I was assured this research would remain anonymous, I tried to be as honest as I could. Some who know me well would be surprised that happiness can thrive despite devastating turns in the road, which proves the point that being rich, famous, and living to be 101 doesn't gift you with peace of mind. It's all in your perspective.
I consider myself quite lucky, all things considered. Life is unpredictable and nothing illustrated this more than a short incident the other night when I was driving our homestay guest from Japan back from a gallery opening. We were chatting away when right in front of us a car went through an intersection and was T-boned on the passenger side by another one going quite fast. I stomped on the brakes, we both guest gasped and froze with disbelief. He had just gotten off the plane, the father of a young baby, let loose for a short vacation before starting a new job. He was on his way to spring training in Tampa to see his favorite Japanese players with the Yankees. He was sitting in the seat that would have been hit by the oncoming car just one short space and two seconds ahead of us. Luckily for the driver of the other car, there was no passenger in the side that was crushed and she was ok too. It wasn't until later that I'm sure all of us realized what had really just happened, or had not happened to change our lives.
We've all had our share of close calls, probably many, many more than we even know. One close call is no different than another in my book, whether it be a scary brush with cancer or a car length away from a drunk driver. This knowledge keeps me grounded in the present, and yes, feeling darn pretty happy, all things considered.
If you are interested in participating in the Track Your Happiness Survey, here's the link to sign up. You may learn more than you bargained for, and I hope it's all good.
Track Your Happiness