A couple of weeks ago I heard about the “Track Your Happiness” project, a research project using daily surveys to collect data about how happy people are. Because, why the hell not? We all want to be happy, say we are happy, or should be. Americans are a bit obsessed with being happy: it comes from that line in the Declaration of Independence: “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
By the way, it doesn’t actually say we will be happy. It says “the pursuit of happiness”. Happiness is an active state that takes work to achieve. Often we think of happiness as something we feel when we aren’t doing anything, but that’s not my experience.
The graph above shows my responses to the happiness survey broken down by day of the week. Saturday and Sunday are higher than the weekdays, as might be expected, but my happiest day is actually Monday. What the…?
My thought is this: on Mondays, I am rested and ready to go. I usually go for a run, make breakfast and get to work a little early to plan out my day. I’m fresh and optimistic and rarin’ to go. Notice how that divebombs on Tuesday (early morning meeting day, sigh).
As part of the survey I have to code each survey according to whether I want to do it and have to do it. I rate my happiness highest when I want to and have to do the task. What both of these results suggest to me is that I (and maybe people than just me) undervalue the importance of day-to-day contentment. I think we envision happiness as some sort of blissful state complete relaxation. And that does sound nice, for sure. But its not what the results of this survey are showing. I am happiest when I am engaged in the daily business of life, where I feel I have to most control and can make a difference. Maybe it’s just me. If so, I’m lucky, ’cause I seem to be a pretty happy guy.