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.

NOVA ScienceNow
2-10 minute podcasts added irregularly, but usually quite interesting.

RTS Online
Not really a podcast, but a selection of free seminary courses

Westminster Seminary
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.

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7 Responses to Happiness

  1. Susanna says:

    “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.”

    I find this so interesting…it makes a lot of sense! I know that one of my problems is thinking about too many things while I’m trying to do something and it definitely does impede my enjoyment of that particular task!

  2. Grace says:

    It would be interesting to track everything…I think especially my use of time. Justin loves his commute to work and is alway listening to sermons/podcasts…whatever.

  3. Anna says:

    First of all, I love the idea of having to walk 30 minutes to get to work every day… especially in NYC!

    And I really like the quote Susanna mentioned. I too find that I am constantly thinking about something else I need to do, when I’m engaged in a specific task. However, when I’m doing something relaxing, I’m usually focused on it. I need to focus on and find enjoyment in my work as well as leisure activities. Interesting connection.

    Staying on top of simple tasks is so important – I bet the trend is even more significant for homemakers. I find that I sink into depression more easily when my house isn’t tidy. Even if I have a big to-do list, if everything is in order visually, I am a happier girl!

    Just thinking out loud… Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Rick-

    Glad also for your commute. I love to drive in the car, without kids….as I can listen to stimulating conversations…and no kid-music!!!

    So much of happiness for me looks like little things. Good coffee. Good food-treats. Great movies or shows. Good books. Conversations with friends.

  5. jchallies says:

    I must be chronically depressed because I never make the bed. Maybe my reasoning is faulty. I reckon that since I will just be getting back into bed in several hours, what’s the point of making the bed. I will just have to unmake it so that I can use it again. I leave my truck doors open all night long as well.


  6. bchallies says:

    SO much fun for you, Rick…Great use of time. MomC

  7. Pingback: RickandSusanna » Happiness Results

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