The app asks you several questions at random times of the day and you need to respond as soon as you get the link
A new app to track your happiness
What drives happiness? That's a question we haven't really found an answer to yet. Harvard student Matt Killingsworth argues that being happy has a lot to do with our moment-to-moment experiences. What are we doing, who are we with, how is your body feeling, what are we thinking about; all the instances influence our happiness. Matt’s research focuses on how happiness is linked to living the moment and how being “out of the moment” or having your mind wander, leads to unhappiness.
As part of his PHD research, Mark has developed a smartphone app to sample people’s ongoing actions, feelings, and thoughts in real-time. I created an account for myself this morning (wwww.trackyourhapiness.org) and it took me just takes 10 minutes to do. The pity is that for India the app is not available but one can do pretty much the same by responding to email questionnaire links that come through the day. The application helps you track your feelings moment by moment and derive information about what makes you happy by answering few simple questions throughout the day.
The app asks you several questions at random times of the day and you need to respond as soon as you get the link. There are three main question categories on those links: the first group refers to how are you feeling right now on a scale of really good and really bad; the second is related to what are you doing, who are you with, what is your physical state; And finally, some of the links also include a mind-wandering question: Are you thinking about something else other than what you're currently doing? Here if you say ‘no’, that means you are focused on the task at hand, if you can say ‘yes’ that means that you are thinking on something else while you are performing that activity. If I say that I am mind wandering, the app will also ask me if those thoughts are unpleasant, neutral or pleasant.
I am just one of the 15,000 people across the world who are participating in this ongoing project generating more than 650,000 real-time reports. This exercise is part of the research that Killingsworth is spearheading at Harvard and the findings are very interesting.
Firstly, the more focused one is in the moment, the happier one reports to be feeling; and vice versa, if one is mind wandering or distracted while performing an activity one tends to rate oneself as more unhappy. That means that mind wandering turns to be a very important variable in the equation for happiness.
Secondly, the research also shows that we are mind wandering half of the time during the day! Whatever the activity we are performing, we are thinking about what is not happening almost as often as we are thinking about what is happening. In his recent TED Talk, Matt shares “Forty-seven percent of the time, people are thinking about something other than what they're currently doing. Looking at data of mind wandering across 22 activities ranging from a high of 65 percent, when people are taking a shower, brushing their teeth, to 50 percent when they're working, to 40 percent when they're exercising. Mind wandering isn't just frequent, it's ubiquitous. It pervades basically everything that we do.”
While we do not know yet what causes happiness, we now know that when we mind wander, we are less happy. Will tracking our mind wandering help us be more focused? It’s just been one day and I already think it does.