mood & emotion
Ashish Mukharji is the author of Run Barefoot and Run Healthy. About two and half years ago, he bought a book called "How of Happiness" for an extra boost in happiness. He wasn't unhappy, but he enjoyed the instructions of the book. In this talk, Ashish describes doing three years of continuous happiness tracking, using a single number.
Google sheet | Notes
So I was in a similar situation, you know I’m not unhappy but it’s good to have an extra boost. So about two and a half years ago I bought a book called the How of Happiness and again I wasn’t unhappy, I was just (unclear 00:38) and they had a bunch of really good introductions like be kind to people, meditate, don’t think too hard but the one I liked was the introduction on actually measuring what made me happy, you know, not what should but actually what worked for me.
I was a math undergrad so I thought okay let’s do this, let’s put some numbers around it. and actually looking at my records it was exactly the 28 June 2010, so this the evening is three years of daily data collection which is really hard for me.
About several years ago I took an aptitude test and they said I was the ideal guy. I should be writing fiction, I should be doing sales and marketing, and keeping track of the number every night was actually a real strain and I did it to be here, I did it for you.
The way it works is every night when I remembered I would say to myself, okay Ashish, how do you feel, like what is the number and I would wait for a number to come and I wouldn’t argue with it it was purely a question of how was the day and how should I feel, and it’s how do I feel. And I would get the number and it could be seven, it could be six, one, three, eight. I did limit myself to three significant figures, which could be too much. But I basically took it here it comes. And then there’s the question of how does this number, how does it fit into my workload. Ideally I would like have an iPhone app that would just as I was falling asleep it would say, hey Ashish what’s your happiness number, but I haven’t been able to find that app as yet.
So the next thought is okay, let’s make the app or let’s make the product that scans me and it tracks my happiness and it does all the work. But I actually (unclear 02:19) so making the (transcorder? 02:22) was also not on the cards.
I took a (unclear 02:26) approach and went with a Google spreadsheet and every evening I would write down the number and I would write down a couple of sentences about what happened that day. You know, what just makes that day unique at that time. I could have gone to a restaurant with some friends, watch a movie, sat on the couch and fell asleep and drooled on my laptop, whatever’s going to make that day special. And having gone to school my brain circuitry is total burned out, the memory circuits. So it’s actually kind of cool having that spreadsheet to remind me to look back on it at a point in time and say okay, what happened.
By now you’re like give us the numbers, so I am roughly a seven. Seven out of ten is my long term happiness with a standard deviation of 0175, and that’s based on three years of continuous years.
Now I see some faces thinking seven out of ten, this guy is a C minus student. Indians feel that 60% is a first division in India. So seven out of ten, 70% is actually not bad long term average. I did worry that I was going to run off either end if I wasn’t calibrating my score correctly, but it turns out on a low day it’s two out of ten and on a high at 9.25.
So I think pretty much what I’m receiving is celebrated. So who here grows (unclear 03:41) in the late 80s? So don’t you remember that (unclear 03:48) and some of my saturation seems to be random and I’m a (unclear 03:53) as I mentioned and one Is sleep. What I discovered is going without sleep makes me sad. No matter what I was doing late at night and however fun it keeps me up at night I will be unhappy, and now I consciously try to avoid that.
Mean people suck. Again how often have we taken a job on knowing that we didn’t like the people? How often do we hang out with frenemies and values if they don’t always treat us very well?
And from my data I know okay, I need to not do this also I work from home and I can have the entire day at my desk talking to people on the phone but not physically seeing someone and I realized that this also made me sad. I wouldn’t do well in solitary confinement and now I make a conscious effort to go out and meet people physically.
Indian food; one of the best things about being Indian, too much Indian food, too much of a good thing as far as I’m concerned it really messes me up. And so that extra little bit of self-discipline not to eat that extra bit of food.
And finally one of my big four unhappiness factors earlier if I just some evening finding I have a low score it gives me a sort of a clue you know, what is good about me and what is stressing me out and a sort of a hint that I should look in myself.
On the plus side, strenuous journeys exercise. I ran a marathon at barely a nine minute pace, but if I do track work so hard that it hurts that give me a feeling of euphoria that lasts into the evenings.
Also having goals and by goals I mean a goal in the future. Working towards a goal and having a sense of hope and progress makes me happy. And actually getting to the goals actually that’s not exciting.
And finally friends, of just being a big lover of having people over and not having people, versus happy people versus mean people being makes a big big difference and I know I need to watch out for that in my life.
You know I look a people living in Palo Alto and there’s a lot of nice cars, you know iPhone, when’s the new iPhone coming out. There is so much cool stuff and it’s lovely to think about, but actually having stuff doesn’t do much for me in terms of happiness.
Similarly experiences are fun when they happen, but has a surprisingly little effect in my immediate long term happiness. It could be the experiences fractureinto my long term sense of my life and my satisfaction, being satisfied with let’s say an accomplishment has surprisingly little effect on how I feel at night. Again this could be a long term effect and it is a little bit fuzzy, but in the moment, satisfaction isn’t the same as the happiness that I measure and feel within myself.
So I’ve measured all this happiness and I’m wondering is it really happiness or should I be measuring satisfaction or accomplishment or lines of code, the number of kids. I don’t know, but this is what I measured and I learned a lot about what makes me tick and what doesn’t.
One last thing, you know many of you would have heard it, that when you do something 21 days in a row or 30 days in a row, it will create a habit. And that hasn’t been my experience. At the end of it I learned a lot about what makes me tick and I learned what to avoid that made me unhappy. I learned that if I need a little sort of boost you know I know how to get it, run around a track. And generally I understand myself better.
That’s my story.