fresh way to “discover” happiness

novel; original: a fresh outlook

One of my favorite NPR programs, Talk of the Nation Science Friday, recently featured a Harvard scientist who is aiming to answer a shockingly simple question: what makes you happy? While the question might not be new or fresh, the approach certainly is. Instead of just asking people what they think makes them happy, doctoral student Matt Killingsworth has designed the study so that participants receive text messages and/or emails 3 times a day, asking them to take a minute to report how they’re feeling at that moment. After 50 check-ins, participants receive a happiness report highlighting patterns associated with their happiness. (Currently, the phone app is only for iphones, which leads me to a quick digression:  Is studying the happiness of iphone owners who have time in their day to do this really going to teach us anything that useful?)

Although I’m skeptical that a happiness report will reveal anything too surprising, I was curious enough to take the leap and sign up. I feel like I spend a lot of my day getting from one place to the next, finishing one project to get to the next, making it through a meeting to get to happy hour, and rarely stop to think whether I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I’m not saying that I’m not happy, I’m just not really thinking about it. But now that I am thinking about it, there are definitely things within my control that make my day a happier one. Getting 8 hours of sleep. Starting the day with hazelnut coffee. Writing an email to a friend during my lunch break. Tackling that project that has been pushed to the bottom of my to-do list for the last 3 weeks. Doing laundry. Starting a new book. Going to kickboxing. Taking myself out for a glass of wine. If 3 minutes/day can help me identify the little things that make me happy, then it might be worth it. Because when I’m happy, I’m better prepared to take on the bigger challenges that life will inevitably present and better able to be there for others. While I find certain methodological aspects of this study questionable, I am still intrigued by this blend of social science and social media. Happiness is a Constitutional right after all–so do your forefathers proud and check out the app!

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