Welcome to yet another monthly happiness report: April, 2014! This month, I continued traveling through New Zealand while seeing amazing places. I was lucky enough to visit the spectacular Coromandel peninsula and went on another camping trip to McLaren Falls park. I continued to track my happiness in a little journal, and that's what I want to share with you again.
My average happiness rating in March, 2014 was a solid 7,91. It's a little lower than last month's happiness, but I still consider this to be great! I want to show you what exactly caused me to be this happy!
But before we dive into it, let's back up and talk about my living situation at the time. In April, 2014, I was still a 20 year old guy finishing up his Bachelor's degree by interning at a company located in Auckland. It was the first time I had ever been overseas, and New Zealand was everything I had hoped it to be. It was heaven on earth to me. I anticipated this period in my life was going to be very interesting, so I started to fill a journal with my every thought, just so I would never lose these memories.
As this site proves, I am still tracking my happiness every day. I want to continue posting these monthly happiness reports, so I can give you an idea of how it can improve the value of your life. Tracking happiness allowed me to determine exactly what made me happy, and therefore to steer the life in the direction I wanted!
I have to add here, that it's normally very hard for human beings not to be biased. When we already know the outcome of certain events, we will unconsciously adjust our opinion of that event. This is called hindsight bias. You might say that it would be easy for me to fall victim to it as well. I remember New Zealand as one of the best periods of my life, and that might cloud my judgement here and there. For example, I could easily neglect the negative aspects of work in these reports, because my mind is so focused on the awesome weekend trips.
"Tracking happiness prevents me from being a victim of hindsight bias"
But that's what the entire idea of tracking happiness prevents! I have the exact happiness ratings right in front of me, including the factors that influenced it. This keeps my judgement from being clouded, because it is all quantifiable. I still see some days in there where my happiness rating was well below average. Would I have still remembered these days - more than 3 years later - if I didn't have the exact numbers screaming in my face? Probably not, because that's what hindsight bias does with you. Tracking happiness prevents me from being a victim of hindsight bias.
The chart below shows my happiness ratings during April, 2014:
Even though the numbers are less spectacular than the month before, I was still very happy overall. You might notice two peaks near the beginning and end of the month. These were the awesome weekend trips to Tauranga and Coromandel, so no surprise there!
The table below shows all the happiness factors for April, including the factors that influenced it.
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I have added a bar graph to show the number of times certain factors positively influenced my happiness.
In many ways, this month was similar to the previous month. Traveling to amazing places with great friends had a very positive effect on my happiness.
Tauranga and the McLaren Falls Park
I spent the first weekend of April in the Tauranga region. Tauranga is the largest port of New Zealand and it's located in a beautiful area. We packed the car with all the camping gear we needed, and headed off to Manguanui. This is a part of the bay of Tauranga, which is located next to an inactive volcano. New Zealanders call this 'The Mount'. This was our first destination.
The views from the top of the mountain were spectacular. It was a beautiful day and seeing the ocean waves roll in was extremely relaxing in a way.
Our next stop were the Kaiate Falls. Ever since jumping from overhanging trees into a raging river, I knew adrenaline rushes have a great effect on my happiness. What can I say... I like jumping from high stuff, I guess? Anyway, the Kaiate Falls are a nicely hidden gem near Tauranga, and it's perfect for a refreshing dive in crystal clear water. We spent quite some time here, just having fun and jumping from heights in the water below. It may sound silly, but this is easily one of the coolest things I have done. The tension and excitement you feel just before jumping from heights is amazing. It never fails to bring me happiness.
"It may sound silly, but this is easily one of the coolest things I have done"
The final stop for the day was the McLaren Falls Park. This is an amazing, quiet and relaxing nature reserve, located next to the McLaren Falls Dam. This was also giong to be our camping spot for the night. We set up our tents, drank some beers and enjoyed the evening. After sunset, everybody slowly went back to the tents to get a good night's rest. But some Maori locals convinced a friend of mine to join them for a small hike. I was already quite tired (and a little tipsy, maybe), so I decided to just call it a day. However, after an hour or so, my friend knocked on my tent and told me: "Man, you have to come out and see this!".
Apparently, the locals had shown him a part of the park which ran along a small stream of water. It was one of the most amazing things he had ever seen, and he wanted to show it to me as well. So I got back up and joined him. Mind you, it was well after midnight at this point, so it was absolutely pitch black. After 30 minutes of walking nervously through the dark, trying to find our way, we stumbled upon the small stream of water. And there it was: one of the most spectacular things I had ever seen in my life.
There were thousands of little glowworms scattered around the banks of the small stream! It was like I was suddenly walking through a dreamscape. The path ran along a slope, and the entire slope was filled with tiny lights. It was like looking at a sky full of stars. In the meantime, it was extremely quiet. If it were not for the small stream of water, you would be able to hear a pin drop. The setting was simply magical. Even though I brought my phone, there was no way I could have ever captured this beauty on camera. I am just extremely happy that I got to see this, and it's a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
"The setting was simply magical"
The day after, we explored some of the area surrounding the McLaren Falls Park. We visited the McLaren Falls Dam, not knowing it would open its water intake valves to accommodate rafting and kayaking downstream. It was very cool to see this old dam still in somewhat operational shape, even if it was just for recreational purposes.
On the way back to Auckland, we stopped at the Karangahake Gorge. This gorge was a hotspot for mining in the early 1900's, but now it's more known for it's beautiful pathways and scenery. This was a perfect way to end an amazing weekend. The weather was amazing as well. Unfortunately, we were all bitten to death by sandflies. Very nasty, terrible creatures, they are. This excerpt from wikipedia brilliantly explains it all:
The god Tu-te-raki-whanoa had just finished creating the landscape of Fiordland, it was absolutely stunning... so stunning that it stopped people from working. They just stood around gazing at the beauty instead. The goddess Hine-nui-te-pō became angry at these unproductive people, so she created the sandfly to bite them and get them moving
Unfortunately, this had a small effect on my happiness during the following days... If you're ever going to travel to New Zealand, you better watch out for these little buggers!
Coromandel peninsula and the Pinnacles hike
I spent the last weekend of April on the Coromandel peninsula, doing something I love dearly: Hiking! Just like all the other weekends, we took my beaten-up car and drove from Auckland to the base of the Pinnacles Hike track.We all had a backpack filled with the necessary supplies and started hiking through the mountainous area. I have said it many times already, and I will say it again: New Zealand is an absolutely stunning country.
We had booked an overnight stay at the Pinnacles hut. A simple accommodation with big rooms filled with bunk beds. It had the basic utilities, like running water and some bathroom facilities. No showers or electricity though! But the setting was simply perfect. There we were, in the middle of a beautiful landscape, with nothing but nature and lovely people surrounding us.
"The view from the top was simply breathtaking"
There was a short trail from the hut (about 45 minutes) that led to the top of the pinnacles. The view from the top was simply breathtaking. We went there in the evening to watch the sunset. We set an alarm early the next morning (4:30 AM) in order to watch the sun come up again. The Pinnacles and the ocean are only 20 kilometres apart, so we actually watched the sun rise from the ocean. Absolutely beautiful!
Sleeping in the hut was a challenge, however. The hut has large rooms, which were all fully booked during our stay. As you might expect, there was one guy in the room with an extremely loud snore, which kept everybody awake. It was to be expected in a shared sleeping room, but it didn't make sleeping easier. Luckily, the snoring guy seemed perfectly rested the morning after.
After watching the sunrise in the morning, we took a big detour back to the parking lot at the base of the mountains. We spent the entire day hiking again, and boy was it fun. We passed a beautiful pool of water, named Hoffman's Pool. It was yet another perfect place to get some adrenaline going! Even though the water was freezing cold, we managed to do some jumps of the cliff. That's what I would call a perfect ending to a perfect weekend.
These two weekends in April were amazing, but what about the other weekends? The other weekends were not so successful, and I will tell you why after showing the negative happiness factors for this month.
The seasons change
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, meaning that Autumn was already well underway! The nice, sunny tropical weather was slowly changing into something more rainy. This had its effect on my happiness, unfortunately. Especially during the remaining 2 weekends of April, where the weather was just not that great.
My friends and I all wanted to do the Tongariro Crossing, so we drove the 5 hours to Taupo during a weekend. Unfortunately, the weather was too bad for the hike, and we had driven all this way only to sit in the rain. We still managed to do some mountain biking and went to a nice thermal swimming pool, but it was all just a consolation. This also resulted in some irritations between our group of friends, which had a negative effect on my happiness as well. Even though I still enjoyed traveling with my friends, the bad weather and travel-related stress made it a little more difficult.
Work and happiness
Work was still challenging, to say the least. On some days, things would be alright and I would actually enjoy it. But more often than not, I was just not liking any of it. A particular colleague was really trying to get on my nerve, while the work itself was also not glamorous. I have talked about this in previous posts, but if your daily job is mind numbing, it is absolutely crucial to have some way to blow off steam after work.
For me, that was still running. It is no coincidence that for each time my work had a negative influence on my happiness (8 times), running was there to make life better. I needed it to get rid of any stress, while also keeping me in decent shape. Sure, on some days I wouldn't feel like running at all, but I always forced myself to do it anyway. And once I finished running, my stress and negativity was almost always completely gone! It is truly an amazing way to deal with frustrations.
And with that I want to wrap it up. I will continue with May, 2014, in which I finally get to hike the Tongariro Crossing! I hope you can find amusement and value in reading these posts. It's a great way for me to summarise and reflect on what truly makes me a happy person! If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I'll be happy to answer them!