Track and compare your happiness
A happy and healthy New Year – you’ve probably heard it plenty of times last week. And you probably know pretty well how to make your year as healthy as possible: working out, eating your vegetables. But happiness is something that just happens to you. You’re either happy or not, you can’t control how you feel. Or can you?
Yes, says Ruut Veenhoven, the godfather of happiness studies (Erasmus School of Economics). At least to a certain extent you can work to be happy, just like you can work to be healthy. And it’s just as important. Because being unhappy is like being in pain – your body signals to you that there’s something wrong in your life. About time you change it!
One way to do this is called ‘happiness tracking’. Websites like gelukswijzer.nl can help you with that. It helps you keep track of how happy you feel and compares it to your peers. Is your score lower than theirs? That probably means there’s room for improvement – switching jobs, for example, improving social contacts or finding a hobby. Even if you’re struggling with something chronic, like an illness, it can be useful to compare your feelings to those of others in your situation, says Veenhoven. ‘There are people with cancer who score their happiness with a 7. How do they spend their time?’
You could also keep a daily happiness journal. List all your activities and score them on the level of happiness you experienced during. Later you compare the scores to determine which choices you can make to improve your happiness. Comparing is useful because we’re pretty bad at determining our own happiness, says Veenhoven. ‘We remember highs and lows, but it’s the average that counts. Like just sitting on the couch with your loved one.’