Measuring Happiness and Mood

This is a quick post to request help/references. I’ve decided to add an emotional dimension to my self-measurement experiments. I’m currently measuring mood on a 1-5 scale. There is a lot of social science research on measuring mood. I’ll post some pointers in the next few days. But if others are measuring mood I’d be interested in hearing what scale you are using. Are you measuring general mood or are you analyzing mood into component feelings?


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9 Responses to Measuring Happiness and Mood

  1. Hi Gary,
    Great post. I’m very interested in seeing your upcoming mood-measuring pointers!
    I track mood on a custom 6-field scale I developed based on what emotions I feel regularly and want to move towards/away from. I’ve classified 3 as positive and 3 as negative. I’m working through body image distortion issues at the moment, so one pair of emotions is related to that. The fields I track (0-5) are:
    1. Happiness
    2. Irritability
    3. Calmness
    4. Sadness
    5. Feeling beautiful/self-love
    6. Feeling fat/ate too much
    I chart my overall mood, calculated as follows:
    I know there are many instruments available for measuring mood, but 1. I haven’t had time to look into them and 2. I wanted to measure in a way that was relevant for me.
    Thanks for asking! :)
    Alexandra Carmichael

  2. Tim says:

    here’s my four point scale for recording mood:
    Mainly Fine

  3. Miriam says:

    I love that diagram Gary!
    I’ve been keeping track of moods for some time now, but only recently have I been trying to quantify them. (I should caveat, without a whole lot of success and satisfaction so far). I’ve been playing around with Moodstats, which uses a 1-10 daily self-rating scale. I’ve incorporated several insights just from playing with it’s current functions. For instance, it reaffirmed my inclination to track several things in addition to base moodstate, including stress + creativity (a very knowledge-worker relevant scale) as applied dimensions of mood, as well as several factors of impact. They have a whole list of possibilities (I don’t know if you’ve played with it at all) like alcohol consumption, daydreaming, social interaction, email activity, 4 kinds of sex and Kung Fu. I noticed however that menstrual cycles, birth control and other hormonal states are curiously absent.
    I have two major quips with this service, one related to what you mentioned in your post. While it has a notes field, I’m more inclined to use that for contextual information, and would like some other fields for precisely the kind of specificity you refer to as “component feelings.”
    Second, Moodstats works as a daily journal, which is somewhat shy of the frequency I feel is necessary for the kind of patterns I’m observing without quantification. There are a few more or less predictable times of day when I know I’ll have sudden reversals, spikes and dips that are really the kind of events I need to correlate with other factors. But that shows up as a muddled average on Moodstats, or else biased towards the state of the times of day when I have time to actually look at it. For instance, I usually have time to journal, log, play with widgets, in the later evening, which is one of my consistently lowest times of day emotionally.
    This made me think that for a service like this, a mobile ap might be more effective than a desktop widget. The potential value for me really is in correlations through tracking and visualization. I haven’t used it long enough to tell if their charts and graphs will really make sense to me–right now they’re just erratic squiggles.
    I’m also a little baffled by the social aspect of the service. In theory, you can share and view other people’s data as well. My understanding is that it’s a little like the Mood Map on Patients-Like-Me, but with less gravitas, seriousness and specificity. I’m not sure what kind of community this is trying to attract, and whether I would want them to see my moods, or really care to look at theirs.

  4. lensflare says:

    My comments are slated more toward the depression side of depression/happiness but they may be useful…
    I’ve used the Beck depression inventory which is 25 questions ranked on a 4 point scale. I put it in a spreadsheet.
    Illuminating for you- forces you to confront where you are
    Communicative for others- It can be helpful in communicating your state with specialists or others. The fact that this is an established inventory will help.
    Determining cause/effect- It is difficult to determine what causes changes that are seen.
    I agree with other comments that sampling more often is better and this test may not lend itself to that but it has its uses.
    For more info-
    a. Read “Feeling Good”
    b. I can email anyone a spreadsheet so they can sample filling out the inventory

  5. Kris Beevers says:

    A few years ago I thought about about measuring happiness as a 1D variable. I came up with something a little different, a relative scale, which made sense to me: at the end of the day, I have a pretty good idea if the day was better than the previous day, but over time I’d expect my baseline to shift if I was using an absolute scale.
    Here are a few notes I wrote when I started tracking this: “This is an additive measure. Valid values are in the range [-5..5] (inclusive). The values are relative to the previous day. If the day was extremely worse than the day before, for example, happiness should be -5. If the day was extremely better, happiness should be +5. If the day was about the same, it should be 0. Interpolate as necessary.”
    Here’s what I’ve ended up with, since late 2004:
    The red line is the plain relative result. I noticed pretty quickly that I’m a generally upbeat kind of guy and happiness for me has a clear upward trend — some bias toward “today was better than yesterday!” I guess. It’s also interesting to normalize based on a linear fit to get happiness relative to the unbiased average, which is the blue line.
    Anyway, this has been a very interesting thing to track, and there are some events in my life which correlate very obviously to longer periods of upward/downward trending. There have also been some surprises in retrospect. I’ve started to trust this measure enough that I consider it, at least a little, when I’m thinking about whether it’s time to make some kind of a change.

  6. None says:

    The literature in happiness and mood usually looks at two axes: Valance and Arousal. Valance captures the sign (happy/unhappy) and arousal captures the magnitude (high/low).

  7. Heidi says:

    I am new to tracking and measuring mood. I was wondering about the scales and measurements you were using. I have a psychology research paper to do and need to form a mood test. I would appreciate the help.

  8. Gary Wolf says:

    @Heidi: Questions about how to construct a better self-tracking system are welcome here, but it pays to give some more thought to the formulation of your questions. “I was wondering…” is too vague not likely to receive any replies. What exactly do you want to know? Please do come back and post again if you are able focus your query a little more.

  9. Gary Wolf says:

    @Kris Beevers: Thank you very much for posting about your interesting method here. I have never seen a method quite like this – really interesting and promising.

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