258 Days of Tracking My Happiness

What Happened After Tracking My Happiness?

Read Time: 6 Minutes

A curious thing happens when you start tracking your happiness. In fact, for me, it was more than that.

It began with a simple routine of recording my happiness levels every day. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, but soon enough (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this),  my life started changing.

I’ve now been tracking my happiness for exactly 258 days.

What’s happened in that time?

1. I Became More Mindful Overall

As a person, I tend to be inside my head quite a lot and I often find myself lost in my thoughts.

After I started writing about my daily habits, my emotional state, and my daily activities, I noticed a couple of improvements:

  • First, I became aware of changes in my mood and what was causing the changes.
  • I started dealing with people a lot better. For instance, I realised that sometimes I would get snappy at people because of something completely unrelated, so when I felt that happening, I could dial it back.

Once I became aware of this, I was able to manage my response in most situations and remind myself not to make any rash decisions or say something I wouldn’t be able to take back.

2. I Could Learn From My Mistakes

Around the time I started tracking my happiness, I was trapped in a toxic relationship. I didn’t realise it at the time though, so I kept trying my best to fix things, not realising that my girlfriend did not want our relationship to improve.

Looking back, there were many warning signs: The verbal abuse, the deception, irresponsibility and lack of mutual respect. I ignored many of these signs because I wanted the relationship to work.

During this period, my happiness data indicated that I was at an all time low. Even though it was clear that it was this relationship that was causing it, I couldn’t bring myself to leave.

You can see it quite clearly in these two charts of the the worst two months:

Happiness chart Oct 2017Happiness chart Nov 2017

The charts of the worst months of 2017

average happiness nov

Quite a number of bad days in November.

Those huge dips were very significant periods and are actually the reason I became more aware of the problems in my life, and that I needed to deal with them.

You can also see how erratic my emotional state was at the time. Certainly not what you’d want to see, and are clear warning bells.

Those high points on the chart occurred only when I was staying elsewhere or hanging out with other friends and didn’t have to deal with the strain of my relationship.

Eventually, I reached my breaking point and left her for good. I had also been living in an extremely pessimistic environment up until then, and I left that too. My happiness levels started shooting upwards and began to stabilise.

Take a look at the difference in the months immediately after I made these changes – December, 2017 and January, 2018:

 

It’s quite clear that the levels have stabilised in comparison to the previous months.

Looking back on my journal from that period, it astounds me that I allowed myself to stay in that situation for so long. I could see from the way I was writing about my experiences at the time that I was completely blind to the real issues in my life and wasn’t thinking rationally.

The ability to look back and review my own thoughts provides a unique insight into the workings of my own mind at a certain point in time, and enables me to see how much I’ve changed since then. It’s almost freaky, how different I was back then.

I think if you attempt this, it will be very interesting to look back on your past self and be able to read about your own thoughts. You might be surprised at the fact that you can hardly recognise yourself.

3. I Could Better Understand Other People

It’s strange, but I’ve found that the key to understanding other people, is to first understand yourself.

Yeah, I know that sounds like I pulled it out of a fortune cookie, but noticing my own behaviour helped me become more in tune with how other people might be feeling.

If people were behaving strangely or being short with me, I was more aware that they could have many things on their plate, and that almost always, their behaviour wasn’t personal at all.

Just recently, I was having some trouble with a close friend. Our friendship had taken a strange turn and we hadn’t spoken to each other in a while although nothing obvious had happened to drive a wedge between us.

It took me a while, but I eventually decided to give them a call and find out what was going on. In just two minutes, the entire issue was cleared up! It turns out that our friendship wasn’t the problem at all, it was something personal that they were going through, so I did what I could to support them and our communication significantly improved.

Most of all, I think I learned to be more understanding and patient with others, rather than taking things personally and unnecessarily escalating things.

4. The Process of Writing Helps Me Deal With Issues

A lot of the time, people tend to find themselves in a chaotic head space when they have a lot on their plate, and I am no exception.

I found that writing about my emotional state and describing issues in detail forces me to confront them and take the time to deconstruct each problem. This usually allows me to understand the issue, and that calms the chaos in my head. It’s almost like clearing the RAM in your system.

Observing a problem seems to have the effect of making it lose its grip on me. I’m not the only one who believes this: Jordan Peterson, a well-known clinical psychologist, talks about this phenomenon and encourages the process of writing as a way to deal with unresolved issues.

I also noticed that meditation helped a lot in maintaining balance in my life. When I took a long break from meditation, my happiness levels were a little lower and tended to be more erratic.

The Strongest Link to Happiness

I started looking into the factors that affected my happiness and noticed that for me, idleness is a major cause of unhappiness. I don’t like spending my day watching tv shows, for example. I’m far happier when I’m engaged in various activities.

This is why I’ve started working on so many experiments and challenges. They are engaging and make me feel much happier. In fact, I’ve written about My Blueprint to Happiness as a result of these observations.

A major factor that leads to happiness for me is the quality of the relationships I have with people. The number of people do not matter as much as the strength of the bond I have with them.

I’ll leave you with this study conducted by Harvard and you can tell me what you think! In fact, I encourage you to try tracking happiness yourself and see what your findings are.

 

Here’s One For You:

As time passes, do you think we’re essentially the same people? Or are we completely different individuals? What is it that makes you, well, you?

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Improve Concentration With a Quick Mindfulness Exercise

Hey guys, in today’s post I wanted to share a simple technique that has helped me improve my concentration and focus.

A few months ago, I spoke to Nigel (a good friend of mine and a psychologist by profession), and complained about my lack of ability to focus on my work. I explained that my mind was constantly wandering and I was struggling to complete even simple tasks. Stroking his impressive beard and nodding his head, he told me to try and start every work session with a mindfulness exercise.

The Three Steps Involved in The Mindfulness Exercise

Nigel used a set of questions and all I had to do was answer them:

  1. Name the first five things you can see.
  2. Close your eyes, and name the first five things you can hear.
  3. Finally, eyes still closed, name the first five physical things you can feel.

With that last question, you can include the clothing on your skin, sensations, the weight of your own body etc. You can stop there if you want, or you can continue the exercise by repeating it, but reducing the number of things you name from five, then four, and so on until you name just one thing for each question.

That’s all there is to it! It’s extremely simple, and yet that’s what mindfulness is all about – being focused on the present moment and being aware of all your senses.

This exercise helped me calm my racing mind and allowed me to focus on my work with a lot less difficulty. Of course, the more you practice, the more effective it becomes.

Mindfulness, Headspace and Meditation

If you’re interested in learning more about exercises like the one above, I strongly recommend that you try Headspace, a meditation app that I find extremely beneficial. It has guided and unguided meditation sessions, led by Andy Puddicombe. The sessions range from a minute all the way to an hour, so it can fit perfectly into your schedule even if you’re extremely busy.

If you’re interested to give it a try, Headspace provides users with a free trial that gives you ten sessions of “Take Ten”. I’ve purchased the premium version and I absolutely love it, and use it every day as part of my morning routine. It really helps set the tone for the day, and I encourage you to try it.

I’ve included Andy’s Ted talk below if you’re interested to learn more about mindfulness and meditation. That’s all for this time, and as always, I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment or drop me an email using the Contact page! See you in the next one!

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Headspace in any way, but it is a product that I often use and recommend for meditation.