Tuesday, January 17, 2012


I recently signed up with Track Your Happiness. That means I'm now an official participant in the Harvard Happiness Study. If you don't know about the study, check out this story from the Atlantic Magazine. Fascinating stuff, and so American, isn't it? Talk about the right to pursue happiness! Oh Thomas Jeff, are you smiling at us? Ha.

Three generations of Harvard researchers have worked relentlessly to understand the mysteries of happiness. I find this encouraging and kind of funny. The history of the project is interesting. In the 30s and 40s when the project began, they only studied the lives of successful white men - of course! Sometime during the 60s or 70s it occurred to the second generation of researchers to expand the focus, include a variety of people. Now the new generation of scholars is conducting study through an app for the iphone, thereby including virtually everyone, well, anyone who has an iphone. The study of happiness has adapted to the Age of Aquarius. I love it!

One unexpected benefit of joining the study is that the prompts and mini-surveys I receive every day make me actually stop to think about what I'm doing at that exact moment, whether that activity/thought form/behavior is satisfying. I'm asked to notice whether or not I'm happy to be engaged in my regular life. I usually attach happiness to either special events, like a vacation or special dinner date, or in general. Am i happy in general these days? Yes! But it's interesting to look at the mundane events - do the small moments of this or that make me happy?

I'm finding out a lot about what does and doesn't add to my happiness. Really cool! If you have an iphone, click on the first link above and join. If you don't have an iphone yet, I highly recommend you get one as soon as possible.

Life is short. Why not?


Steve Reed said...

The tricky thing about happiness is that it can be very hard to recognize. There may be times when we're annoyed or tired, but that's not the same thing as being fundamentally unhappy -- and then when we get to an unhappy time, we think, geez, I wish I could be merely annoyed or tired again!

So I haven't checked into this study, but it would be hard for me to say at any given time whether I felt happy or not. Relative to when? Relative to what?

Reya Mellicker said...

Steve they ask very specific questions, not just are you happy. There's a slider to indicate how you feel from very good to not so good. But they also ask questions like, "do you have to do what you're doing right now?" and "do you want to do what you're engaged in?"

Just now I was asked if I was thinking about something other than what I was doing - very pleasant experience of making carrot cake while listening to NPR. I was! Analyzing an experience with a friend that was very unpleasant. So now why was I thinking about it? It's provocative.

Pauline said...

I can track my happy moments without an ap which makes me happy ;)

Reya Mellicker said...

Pauline the questions are provocative - are you thinking about something different than what you're doing? Are you focused on what you're doing? When was the last time you were outdoors?

Very cool.

Steve Reed said...

Hmmm...well, it's good that the questions are thought-provoking, anyway!

Reya Mellicker said...

This project has been ongoing for 75 years. Fascinating.

Pauline said...

I try to always think about what I'm doing, except when I'm writing poetry. Then it's best to not think at first, to just sit and watch the words play by themselves for awhile. When I focus on what I'm doing time just falls away. It's a trick to be able to be conscious of what I'm doing and doing it without self-consciousness at the same time, but when you can do that, you're in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow.

I am outdoors every single day at some point. Usually I fit a walk of a couple of miles in. In really nice weather I will be out of doors many more hours than I am inside.