Choosing, tracking, and data visualizing all of the happiness

Visualizing Happiness

Track, graph, and improve your happiness. Plus a March happiness update!

A few years ago, I started tracking my happiness using Jim Collins’ system that he devised and spoke about on The Tim Ferriss Show. And, last month I launched the Happiness Spreadsheet, so that you too can track your happiness.

If you track your happiness long enough using this method, as I have, then you will eventually start to see the patterns in your good days and bad. From there you can start to make some tweaks.

Why track your happiness?

Tracking my happiness, has helped me to really ensure that I am doing the things in my life that make me happy. It has also helped me to realize that I wasn’t happy working as a CEO any longer, and it encouraged me to engineer my exit.

Tracking my happiness, has helped me to really ensure that I am doing the things in my life that make me happy.

Scoring is really simple:

  • 2 is a great day
  • 1 is a good day
  • 0 is a so-so day
  • -1 is a bad day
  • -2 is a really bad day

So if you have two bad days (-1) and two good days (+1), they will cancel each out and you will have a happiness score of a 0.

The goal is to have as high a score as possible, but the simple act of measuring has helped me to increase my happiness over time.

March Happiness Update

I had previously only really been reviewing my happiness scores every so often. The task of entering the score daily, in and of itself has been the most useful aspect of tracking my happiness.

In 2021, I have taken a more proactive approach and started to track it monthly.

In February my happiness was up 56% year-over-year (YoY), and in January my happiness was up 200%.

In March, my happiness continues to be up 56% YoY!

Obviously, last March was interesting.

Between COVID looming, then lockdowns, the stock market crash, it was a recipe for anxiety and clearly my happiness has benefited year-over-year. And that has largely been the story for me for all of 2021.

I had a rough start to 2020, and so far 2021 has proved to be a happiness boon, even if sometimes day to day it is still tiring, hard and a grind.

Even though I had two of my best months in 2020, I know that I am on the daily happier, because my average daily score has gone from 0.71 in 2020 to 0.81 in 2021.

Happiness Data Visualization

Yesterday, I was reading Adam’s monthly update over at Minafi. I was interested to see that he also also tracks his daily happiness. Not only that, but he has somehow managed to graph his happiness onto a very useful full calendar view.

I headed over to my happiness spreadsheet to see if I could use excel to do the same thing. Instead I stumbled upon a way to visualize the data using Google Charts Data Visualization script:

I am a visual person, so I pumped to be able to really look at my happiness in this way.

I never had a lot of red/bad days to begin with, but I am glad to see that most of my bad days are becoming fewer and farther spaced apart.

Plus, there are becoming less white days as well. If every day can turn into a green…well now I am really onto something!

Happiness is a choice

Happiness isn’t something that can be improved overnight. You have to work at it, day after day.

Happiness is a choice.

You have to chose to do the things that make you happy.

You have to chose to be the person that you want to be.

You have to accept reality for what it is.

You have to manage your expectations.

For me, tracking happiness by giving it a value has helped me to emphasize my happiness day after day:

  • I make better choices.
  • I start each day fresh.
  • I chose to do more things that make me happy.
  • I chose to be more present in the moment (because that makes me happier).
  • I chose to do things to make others happy, because I now realize that it makes me happier as well.

Tracking your happiness is a small step towards improving your overall self.

Hopefully, I have convinced you to give it a shot. If not, let me know why!

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12 comments

  1. As others have commented—we track a ton of data; health/fitness related, financial matters—I even write in a gratitude journal. But I don’t track happiness.

    Joe at Retire By 40 has his own happiness tracking method and updates his readers about it. I like his simple method, but not enough for me to dive in and try it. However, I like this complete system (or at least the idea of it) quite a bit here. I think I’ll have to give it a shot! I grabbed a copy of your spreadsheet, which I might use in coordination with my (written) gratitude journal in order to visualize and track the data.

    Thanks for the push! And cool idea!

    1. Boom that’s awesome!

      What do you do for your gratitude journal? I have been doing a “Top 3 moments of the day” as seen in the spreadsheet. We also go around the dinner table and ask everyone what their favorite part of the day was, but curious how others are working gratitude into your daily lives…

  2. This is a cool way of doing it! I like the idea of starting from zero and adjusting from there. The programmer in me likes that idea.😂

    I didn’t know about this Google Chart either! That’s a neat way to make the data interactive while Google handles the heavy lifting.

  3. Well done AR! Happiness is a choice and many of the FI/RE books dance around this idea, but you hit it head on. You need to look internally and decide what makes you happy. You can have all the money in the world but if you’re miserable on the inside, then you’ll continue to be miserable.

    The google calendar visualization script sort of blew my mind. Thanks for sharing that. Cheers!

  4. An angle that most personal finance blogs don’t talk about. They talk about compound investing, letting your money work for you, saving as much money as you possibly can, but not about a happiness indicator reaching all time highs!

    Congrats on reaching 56% YoY increase in happiness. Let’s keep up that momentum so the happiness indicator goes up a million percent! Kidding.

    Happiness is definitely something you can make decisions to achieve.

    1. Well I think money is only part of the journey to FI. And once you make it there, then it becomes increasingly less important. So for me, while I am focusing on my finances heavily right now since I am at the cusp, I continue to be really intrigued by all the other aspects of how to build a happy life for me, my family, and others.

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