I tracked my mood every hour for a month. Here’s what I learned about happiness

Ubud rice terrace

On a plane somewhere between Hong Kong and Toronto, my iPhone timer buzzed for the 431st time in February. It was February 28, 11:16 pm Hong Kong time, and this would be my last moment of self-reflection for the month. I recorded the emotion that I’m sure a few of the other passengers shared: “Hoping for a meal.”

At the beginning of February, I had embarked on an experiment in self-knowledge. I believe strongly that knowing yourself is a major component of happiness, but how do you go about doing that? Understanding my feelings and emotions sounded like a good place to start.

So (nearly) every hour in February, I stopped to jot down my current emotion, then set a timer for another hour. Sometimes I forgot, and I went a few hours ignorantly un-self-aware. But I never missed more than a few. In addition, I used a service called AskMeEvery to record my daily level of stress and happiness. I kept track of my sleep, and I could also see how many happy moments I shared on Happier (acting like a gratitude journal).

Looking back, February was a packed month. I spent three weeks in Bali, devoting my daytime energies to helping my boss write a book and immersing myself in Bali’s beauty and warm weather on nights and weekends. I spent the last week in February in Hong Kong in the tiniest hotel room you could possibly imagine, hurrying to finish the book manuscript and prepare for another big SXSW conference. When all was said and done, I had recorded a total of 176 positive emotions, 216 negative, and 39 neutral. I had 14 days that were a 7 out of 10 on the happiness scale, eight days that were an 8, and six days that were a 6. And only five times during the month (approximately) did I yell at my phone for its constant buzzing.

Read the rest of this post on Medium 


3 thoughts on “I tracked my mood every hour for a month. Here’s what I learned about happiness

  1. You once told it was OK to criticize what you wrote about, so here goes. By the way, next time I criticize, I will do so without a caveat.
    You wrote down your mood every hour for a month. I don’t think that the way to think about happiness is to quantify it so precisely. Ok, so you had 176 positives and 234 negatives. But it that really the way to gain insight into a happy life?
    It sort of reminds me of a scene in Dead Poets Society when Robin Williams asks a student to read out loud the introduction to the poetry textbook. The book says that you can score a poem on an x and y axis using a couple of variables that allow you to rate it for greatness. Robin Williams’s character says that’s baloni.
    I don’t know if writing a great poem is like trying to be happy. But I think that at the end of any day, you can just say, “this was a really happy day,” or “this day sucked.”
    Coming back to the positives and negatives, you give no analysis for why you think felt this way or that. What do you have to keep doing more of, and what do you need to avoid? And more important than the reflection is the conclusion, and the need to discuss with other people, especially the older ones, to see if your on the right track to being truly happy. (maybe this was a run-on sentence…) 🙂
    Hope you don’t hate me…

  2. This is a fantastic #quantifiedself study and has a level of data that can be looked at in a variety of ways. Your insight about how your stories can create unhappiness is an important one. I share the perspective. Please keep pushing on and sharing your studies and insights. I enjoyed reading the piece and will link to it from my own blog.

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