Hacking Happiness: A Quick Peak at Some Results of My January Experiment

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quantified self personal analytics self-tracking happinessIn December and January, I have been tracking some aspects of my everyday life in order to test a couple of psychological and behavioral theories of happiness. The preliminary results of this experiment will be presented tomorrow at the Quantified Self NYC meetup, and of course, I will be posting the PowerPoint slides of my presentation later this week. Unfortunately, 10 minutes are not enough to cover everything in depth, so I thought I would dedicate a separate post that would discuss the most interesting findings of this experiment in more detail.  My personal favorite was quantification of how not being able to live according to my personal values affects my happiness.

If you remember, a couple of months ago I tracked my personal values and then looked at how my value priorities are related to happiness.  I found that on days when I craved independence, money and pleasure, I was less happy, and on the days when I valued creativity, my happiness levels were higher. After some thinking, I came up with a little personal theory of mine that perhaps, not being able to live according to my values makes me unhappy.  I revised experiment a bit and finally got to test it this January.  Every morning, afternoon and evening, I was asking myself how IMPORTANT was of each of the following values to me in that particular period of time, using a 10-point sliding scale in rTracker:

quantified happiness experiment list of values

Hacking Happiness: How Dissonance in Personal Values Affects Happiness

I then would ask myself, how SATISFIED i was with fulfilling each of these values, again, using a 10-point sliding scale. At the end of the month, I computed difference between IMPORTANCE and SATISFACTION, which I called “ value dissonance”. Essentially, I quantified the “gap” between the ideal life and actual reality, expressed in terms of my personal values. I then applied regression model (you can use LINEST function in Excel) to see how these “gaps” affect happiness:

how personal values predict happiness

Hacking Happiness: Correlations between Dissonance in Personal Values and Happiness

As you can see, out of 14 values, only four ended up being significant predictors of happiness. The value of independence had the strongest impact on my happiness levels: every time I craved independence but was not free, my happiness levels would go down. The other three were values of creativity (being able to express myself), purposeful life (spiritual balance), and being healthy. While these definitions may sound too abstract and generic to you, I actually know what exactly they represent in my life (although I am not sure yet how exactly I am going to change them in order to be more happy). Of course, this is just a beginning: I still have more theories to test and more data to track before I will be able (hopefully) to derive my personal formula of happiness.

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