Tracking your happiness is a very powerful habit, one that allows you to learn a lot of essential things about your life. What factors have the biggest impact on your life? What's something you need to stop doing in order to be happier? How can you live a long and sustainable happy life? Tracking your happiness allows you to find the answers.
This website contains 100's of articles about happiness, and we've helped thousands of our readers to get started as well. We're summarizing all this information to show you our simple tracking happiness method, along with tips on how to get started. This post explains everything you need to know.
- How do you track your happiness?
- What's the most important part of tracking your happiness?
- Why is it important to track your happiness?
- Extra tips for tracking your happiness
- Wrapping up
How do you track your happiness?
Tracking your happiness can be done in many different ways. But whatever your method is, it all comes down to the same thing:
You have to quantify your happiness on a scale.
But this simple action often leads to a number of follow-up questions:
- How do you quantify something as subjective as happiness?
- What kind of scale do you use to track your happiness?
- If I rate my happiness on a scale from 1 to 10, should the average always be 5.5?
- How high would I theoretically rate a perfect day? 10/10?
While these are all legitimate questions, you don't need to be able to answer them all before you can start tracking your happiness.
That's because the goal of tracking your happiness is not to be 100% accurate. This is simply impossible anyway. There's something that's much more important instead.
What's the most important part of tracking your happiness?
The most important part of tracking happiness is to remain consistent and to just keep it up.
In other words, don't overthink it and just write down whatever first comes to mind.
Here at Tracking Happiness, we rate our happiness on a scale from 1 to 100. For example, if I'm very happy one moment, I will likely rate it an 85/100.
Why not 83/100 or 86/100? Because these little differences don't matter as much as you may think. When you start tracking your happiness - no matter what method you follow - the impact of a single rating is not that significant.
It's the bigger trend in your happiness that you want to focus on.
Why is it important to track your happiness?
Before diving into different methods for tracking your happiness, here are some reasons why it's so important to track your happiness.
Why do we say that tracking happiness is such a powerful habit?
1. You'll become more self-aware as you learn more about yourself
By tracking your happiness, you'll be forced to think about how certain factors are affecting your mental health. By doing so, you'll realize things about yourself that you otherwise would've missed.
This study even found that self-monitoring happiness resulted in changes in mental health.
One benefit of self-awareness is that we're better able to control our own internal state of mind when affected by external circumstances. Long story short, when we're self-aware, we'll feel more in control of our happiness.
And when you feel more in control of your happiness, you'll also be more likely to actually be happier. We surveyed over a thousand people and found that people are 32% happier when they think that happiness can be controlled.
If you ask us, that's the most important reason to track your happiness, even just for a little while.
2. Tracking happiness gives you actionable insights on what to improve
A big part of our own method for tracking happiness centers around logging happiness factors.
A happiness factor is something that had a significant influence on your happiness. Here are some examples of happiness factors:
- If you had a lovely date with your partner, then you should determine your relationship as a positive factor in your happiness.
- If you felt miserable because you had a fever, make sure you determine that fever as a negative factor!
The list of factors is virtually endless and varies per person. But not everything should be tracked as a happiness factor.
For example, if you stub your toe on the edge of the bed you might feel pissed for a while. However, is this going to have a significant effect on your happiness at the end of the day? Probably not.
In that case, it doesn’t make sense to determine “stubbing toe” as a negative happiness factor. That would be silly…
(unless you broke your toe, of course, that would justify a negative happiness factor…)
When you track your happiness factors, you'll quickly see recurring factors show up in your diary. By simply sorting these from top to bottom, you'll have actionable information that you can use today to be happier tomorrow.
3. You'll enjoy all the benefits of journaling
Most tracking happiness methods - including ours - combine happiness tracking with journaling. This means that whenever you sit down to quantify your happiness, you'll also write down whatever's on your mind.
Journaling has many incredible benefits. It’s a form of therapy that you can do on your own. It improves your memory and self-awareness. It can even increase your productivity.
No wonder why many successful people are known journal writers.
In addition to helping you sort out your thoughts, journaling is good for your mental health, and there’s more than enough evidence to prove it:
- A 2013 study conducted at the University of Michigan showed that among people with major depression, expressive journaling for 20 minutes a day lowered their depression scores significantly;
- According to another study, visual journaling can help decrease stress, anxiety, and negative affect levels in medical students, a demographic known for being more prone to stress and burn-out;
- Journaling can also help with self-efficacy: according to a 2008 study, the self-efficacy of undergraduate college students was improved after weekly journal assignments.
We have an entire category on our website that focuses on how to journal for happiness. It contains dozens of actionable articles and is constantly updated with the latest tips!
Journaling is another great method to train your self-awareness.
It’s no coincidence that journaling is one of the most effective ways to practice self-awareness. One of our long-time readers shared his thoughts on journaling and tracking happiness with me:
“I found that writing about my emotional state and describing issues in detail forces me to confront them and take the time to deconstruct them. This usually allows me to understand the issue, and that calms the chaos in my head. You can think of this as clearing the RAM in your system.”
4. You'll be less likely to romanticize unhappy periods from the past
There are lots of negative periods in your life that could later be romanticized, such as:
- A stressful project at work
- A difficult period in your relationship
- Being sick or rehabilitation.
- Financial stress
I've personally done it myself as well. At the start of my career as an engineer, I spent a number of periods as an ex-pat abroad, and I was always less happy during these times abroad. But I often caught myself romanticizing these periods, especially when I was around friends.
"It was a challenging project in a strange country, which was a really cool experience", I would say.
But what I would actually mean is "it was a shitshow of a project and I hated the fact that I was far away from home for so long".
By tracking your happiness, you'll never have to romanticize again because you can always go back and re-read exactly what you experienced throughout these periods.
You can't fool yourself if you've written it down. It helps you make smart decisions and stops you from repeating mistakes.
5. Tracking happiness is simply a lot of fun
Above all, tracking your happiness is a lot of fun.
After a couple of days, you'll see how your happiness moves like an ocean. Just like water goes up and down with the tide, you'll see your happiness move as well. And even if you can't control 100% of your happiness, it's still a lot of fun to get to understand 100% of it.
Extra tips for tracking your happiness
Since thousands of our readers have started tracking happiness, we've collected a lot of extra tips over the years.
Here are some tips that will help you make the most of tracking your happiness.
1. Don't over-analyze
Tracking my happiness and journaling only takes me 2 minutes every day. It's important to not spend much longer, as over-analyzing a single happiness rating is not what tracking happiness is about.
The goal is to learn from your intuition, from your gut feeling. If you're spending 10 minutes thinking about whether to rate a day with a 72/100 or a 73/100, you're doing it wrong.
As we said before, it's the bigger trend in your happiness that you want to focus on. After you've tracked a full month of your happiness, the small daily differences in your happiness are not going to impact your diary.
2. Don't get stuck in your data
Journaling is great. I think this page has made that very clear. But – like everything – it’s possible to overdo it.
One of my favorite writers – David Sedaris – has worded it beautifully:
That’s the thing with a diary, though. In order to record your life, you sort of need to live it. Not at your desk, but beyond it. Out in the world where it’s so beautiful and complex and painful that sometimes you just need to sit down and write about it.David Sedaris, Theft By Finding
What this means is that tracking happiness - like journaling - is a beautiful way to record and learn from your life. But in order to be able to journal, you need to live your life first.
3. Focus on the positive rather than the negative
There are some studies out there that tried to focus on the negative effects of journaling. One of these studies found that journaling can have a negative influence on your mental health if you decide to focus only on the negatives.
While it's good to track and learn from positive and negative factors, it's important to not contemplate the negatives for too long.
Instead, try to turn this negative into positivity, learn from it and move on.
By using this method for tracking happiness, it won't take long before you are able to spot life-changing trends.
Pretty soon you will be able to determine what exactly makes you happy in life. And once you know just that, you will be able to create more value in life by focusing on the things that make you happy! Your happiness tracking journal can become your blueprint on how to be happy.
2 thoughts on “How Do You Track Happiness? (The Best Methods + Tips)”
You've mentioned that you've started journaling/tracking on paper in "About" post. Having moved from paper to digital, was there a period of "coping", or adjustment to leave paper out?
I work in IT, I track my happiness and journal off digital media so I'm not spending more time "in front of the screen", and it comes with an added bonus of improving my handwriting. But the quickness and ease of getting analysis results from data tracked in Google Sheets (or alternative) is very appealing. I'm wondering, what are your thoughts on the transition from paper to digital.
That's a good question. Most people I know that keep a journal do it the old fashioned way. I have 2 old journals, and it feels great to skip through the pages, while looking at my hand writing and the beauty of the text on paper. I think journaling is an art on its own, and that's why I loved tracking on paper.
However, I chose the digital way, because it was just too convenient. I sleep easy knowing that I will never lose my precious memories. My digital journals are backed up on multiple locations. I would be CRUSHED if my hard copy journals would be lost, without them being backed up. I actually manually typed over my 2 old journals before deciding to publish this website.
Also, the convenience of being able to journal from both my laptop, smartphone and tablet is great. I don't even need an internet connection with Google Sheets. The technology is perfect. I can also type 3 times faster than writing, so that's an extra 10 minutes a day! And finally, it's indeed much easier to analyse results in a digital format straight away.
So to answer your question: I did not have any trouble coping with the shift from paper to digital. The pros far outweigh the cons for me 🙂 What do you think of it?