One of my treats in life is a 30 minute commute by foot, in which I enjoy the exercise and listen to podcasts. I feel it contributes greatly to my happiness and allows me to stay informed on topics of interest.
Today I listened to an interesting discussion on measuring happiness. The experiment is simple: individuals create an account and periodically respond to a survey to rate their happiness at the moment on a slider. They answer a few supporting questions to provide contextual data for analysis. You can participate at www.trackyourhappiness.org (note, this is organized around the iPhone app, but I’ve had no problem participating by the website).
I’ve often pondered the potential of data analysis in our personal lives. We crunch numbers in business all the time, but how fascinating if we had a wealth of data on our personal lives? What if tracked how I spent my time? And in this study: What does make me happy? How does my happiness ebb and flow over time? What insight can be gained from the trends?
From the data so far, researchers discussed a trend that “mind wandering” has the greatest impact on happiness. Doing one task while thinking about something else, makes people less happy. Even if the task itself is less than enjoyable, being focused results in greater happiness.
The January edition of Real Simple magazine also has a number of articles on the topic of happiness. Among their findings were that staying on top of simple tasks, like making the bed, can result in the greatest increase in happiness. They also note that drastic life changes (job change, income increase, etc) only result in a temporary boost in happiness.
For those interested, listed are links to the podcasts I frequently listen to.
CATO daily podcast
Short 5-15 minute political conversations from a libertarian think tank. Generally reasoned, even tempered, fair discussions.
NPR Science Friday
A handful of 10-30 minute segments added weekly on science topics with guests and callers. Regular topics include technology, science research, space exploration, and environmental issues.
2-10 minute podcasts added irregularly, but usually quite interesting.
Not really a podcast, but a selection of free seminary courses
More free seminary courses
CATO events podcast
30-90 minute full length audio from events at the CATO Institute. Includes presentation of policy papers, book critique panels, and political panels. If I choose only particular topics of interest
Federalist Society Event Audio
Supreme court case reviews and panel discussions. Very enlightening, but more dry than popularly accessible.