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Hugo Huijer, Founder of Tracking Happiness


I founded Tracking Happiness in April 2017. Tracking Happiness reaches ~100,000 monthly visitors from all over the world. I try my best to continue to find and reach more people that are interested in Tracking Happiness every day.

hugo huijer photo slovenia 2021

Tracking Happiness has a small team, which means I wear a lot of hats at my job. At any given moment, I may be doing one of the following:

  • Planning the editorial calendar of Tracking Happiness.
  • Performing keyword research and Search Engine Optimization in order to increase our reach.
  • Analyzing data for one of our future studies.
  • Redesigning the website’s front-end.
  • Growing our Instagram channel.
  • Writing one of the articles on here (provided that I have something interesting to add!)
  • Sending out an e-mail newsletter.
  • Programming a new feature for the Tracking Happiness Diary.
  • Replying to emails from our followers.
hugo huijer at work coffee laptop
In my natural habitat

I am proud to have built Tracking Happiness to what it is today:

  • A trusted source of mental health information to over a million visitors worldwide.
  • Reached the news with some of our unique studies and releases.
  • Allowed others to experience how powerful tracking your happiness can be via our own tools.
  • A growing community of happiness trackers, that are sharing tips and stories that we can broadcast to the rest of the world.

The founding story of Tracking Happiness

If you think I’ve spent my entire life devoted to studying mental health and happiness, you’d be mistaken.

I actually hold a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and spent many years working at a big global contractor in marine engineering (think of offshore wind farms, and you’ll have an idea!)

What actually got me started on the journey that eventually led to founding Tracking Happiness was a bit of curiosity. When I just turned 20, I started a journal in which I not only wrote about whatever was on my mind but also tracked my happiness. At the end of each day, I would whip out my journal and think:

How happy was I today on a scale from 1 to 100?

I thought I’d learn a thing or two about myself by simply trying to be more introspective about my happiness.

A year passed by and I suddenly found that I had a boatload of data about myself. Being an engineer (and the biggest Excel nerd you’ve ever seen), I obviously tried to analyze and visualize this data.

  • Can I correlate my sleeping habits to my happiness?
  • Am I happier on Fridays?
  • Does money make me happier?
  • How much happier does running marathons make me?
hugo huijer running rotterdam marathon 2016
Running the Rotterdam marathon in 2016

These questions were all I could think of for a while. They pretty much consumed me.

But when I tried to find similar-minded people online, the results were a bit underwhelming. Had no one created a site about tracking your happiness? Was there really no one who had compared their Garmin running logs to their happiness ratings?

The answer was no, so I eventually convinced myself that I could actually fill this void here, not knowing how big that void really was.

web design 1
The first version of Tracking Happiness, back in April 2017

Tracking Happiness started as a very simple blog. The first post was published in April 2017. At the time, I had a simple goal:

I wanted to share with others how powerful tracking my happiness was, and how it has positively influenced my mental health, self-awareness, and my life in general. Over time, this website transformed into something bigger. I published a number of big data-driven posts, like the effect of sleep on my happinessengineering a happiness prediction model, and how running makes my life better.

This attracted people who were also passionate about tracking happiness, journaling, and learning to understand what influences our mood. Over the years, Tracking Happiness has become more than a simple blog.

  • We’ve made headlines with our own studies (like this one, or this one, or this one).
  • I’ve had the fortune to hire some amazing writers/contributors, who’ve helped me build this site into a growing encyclopedia of mental health topics.
  • We’ve gone viral on Reddit, HackerNews and social media with our geeky data analyses (like this one, or this one).
  • Thousands of people have signed up for our free templates and e-mail newsletter.
  • In March 2021, we launched the Tracking Happiness Diary, offering the easiest way to get started with tracking happiness yourself!

A peculiar turn of events

In 2020, something happened that indirectly changed the course of Tracking Happiness. Until then, I had worked on Tracking Happiness as a hobby, in addition to my full-time job. While my job as an engineer was mostly OK, it slowly but consistently became more stressful and chaotic. In the meantime, my girlfriend and I had always dreamed of quitting our jobs to go travel the world for a year.

In 2020, we made the decision and we both handed in our notices. Needles to say, we could not have timed it any worse. A couple of weeks later, the corona pandemic would swarm over the world, and suddenly our cute little plan was wiped out.

Luckily, we had saved up enough money to not panic right away. This brings me back to Tracking Happiness.

At the time, it had made a grand total of $0.00 in its lifetime. πŸ€“

Even though I didn’t start this venture with the idea of it becoming my full-time job, I always thought I could grow it into something bigger and figure it out by then. So that’s what I’m doing right now.

Since then, I’ve been working hard to grow this community into something bigger.

This brings us to the here and the now.

Some facts that nobody knows about me

Okay, okay, most people that I’m close with actually already know these things:

  • I ran 5 marathons, each time thinking that I’d easily be finishing well within 4 hours. I turned out to be a naive dumbass every damn time. I only managed once, sneaking in just in 3 hours, 59 minutes and 58 seconds.
My result on the Nottingham Marathon in 2016
My result on the Nottingham Marathon in 2016
  • I don’t have a policy against eating leftover dinner in the morning (I really don’t understand what’s not to like about pasta in the morning).
  • I learned to play guitar when I was 16, and yes, the first song I learned was Wonderwall by Oasis.
  • While my voice is super flat, dull and robot-like, I’ve heard from a lot of people that I laugh like a little girl.
  • I recorded and published an album of my own music on Spotify. If you like soft and dreamy rock and aren’t overly critical, you can listen to it here. And before you ask: no, I was not aware that I misspelled my album title before I submitted it to Spotify. 😭)
  • I reconecteded with my biggest childhood hobby when I was 27 years old: skateboarding! 12-year-old me would be super proud if he knew I’d be landing 360-flips in the future.
  • If I had to go back in time to change my career, I’d probably choose Astrology or Physics. I love contemplating our tiny piece of existence within the universe while looking at the stars.
  • I can quote tons of movies from my childhood – word for word – like the Aristocats, 101 Dalmations and Home Alone.
  • I’m the guy that’s always 5 minutes late. Actually, I consider 5 minutes late to be “right on time”. This trait runs deep in my family, much to the annoyance of my girlfriend. πŸ˜‰

Let’s connect

I’d love to connect with you. Connect with me on LinkedIn or reach me at hugo (at) trackinghappiness (dot) com.

Alternatively, you can sign up to the Tracking Happiness email list, where I try to periodically share anything noteworthy.

Want to say hi, call me a naive dumbass or just chat about the weather, I’d love to meet you in the comments below!

Hugo
Founder of Tracking Happiness

Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.

10 thoughts on “Hugo Huijer, Founder of Tracking Happiness”

  1. Hi Hugo. I found your website while doing some research on measuring and tracking all aspects of health for our own website. We deal with physical, financial and mental health, so there’s a lot to consider. It became clear that health, wellbeing, wellness, happiness etc were all interlinked. As part of that, coming at it from the mental health side led to measuring happiness. Hence to your site. Like you, we believe measuring is key. Downloaded the template and will make a start.

    Reply
  2. It’s fun to know that fellow data nerds abound in the world! My name is Sara and I am also obsessed with data (you have to measure what you treasure) and tinkering toward contentment. Thanks for putting yourself out there, Hugo!

    Reply
  3. Hi Hugo,
    I started this journey of being self-aware 4-5 years back. But only recently could I really grab hold of myself and make some good leaps forward. For the past couple of months, I have been actively looking to define my purpose, for example, one of my purposes was “I want to have more good days than bad days in the long run”. So, I would align all my actions around it. But I always felt that there was something missing. There was no juice in it as such.

    But then, I found your website. You are like 10 steps ahead of who I am right now and really want to be!! I am a Mathematics and computing graduate. I discovered running (minimum 10km per week) as a source of happiness as part of my journey, too. I am a great believer in metrics too, so I tried logging rating on how aware I was the whole day. But, I did not persevere. As a kid, I was always strongly aligned towards music (drummer) and wished to compose music at some point. Your journey has given me a reference point on how I can probably frame my life of happiness. I really enjoyed everything about this website :). Thanks a lot.

    Reply
    • Hi Tim,

      It’s really amazing to read your comment! Thanks. I am really happy that you enjoy the content on this website. It started over 2 years ago as a personal blog, but slowly developed to what it is today, similarly to the way that I’ve developed personally. πŸ™‚ To think that I could inspire you is just an amazing thought. So thanks again for sharing. Also, what a coincidence that we share so much of our hobbies!

      If you’re ever interested in sharing your experiences here on this website via a guestpost, I’d be thrilled to have you.

      All the best,

      Hugo

      Reply
  4. Love your profile and work and thanks for your review of mood tracking apps. Wish I had someone like you in my life right now with so much positivity and sensitivity!

    Reply
    • Wow, thanks! I’m flattered that you enjoy the website so much. If you want to chat more about the website, happiness or anything else really, just send me an email at [email protected]! πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Hi, Hugo

    Nice to meet you! Your work and passion about the happiness are worth of respect! Thanks for this! And for templates of measuring happiness also.

    I mailed you week or more ago through your website and link in one of introduction emails, but wouldn’t get response, please check.

    My simple answer was about grade (marks of happiness), I can’t distinguish in 10 points grade the level of happiness from 7 to 8, or 5 from 7. What is your system in practicing this?

    As for me. I’m a regular white-collar work for a medium advertising agency in IT department. But I’m a jedi of GTD-techniques and process/life optimization guy.

    Reply
    • Hi Evgeniy! Thanks for replying and letting me know! I saw your comment on the about page and replied to it. Didn’t you get a notification for the reply? That would be a technical error on my end, sorry!

      My advice is to not worry too much about the happiness scale and ratings in the beginning! Just start rating your happiness daily, and you will soon figure out which scale works best for you! Using fractions in happiness ratings is always good to track subtle differences in happiness between days.

      It’s very nice to meet you! So you are a jedi at getting things done, eh? πŸ™‚ That sounds awesome. You previously said you wanted to start tracking your happiness. I was wondering if you had actually started and want to ask you about your experiences? If you’re still tracking, I’d love to hear about it! πŸ™‚

      Reply

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