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.

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