Another month means another Monthly Happiness Report. September 2015 was the first real month without my girlfriend. She had just left for a 5 month internship to the other side of the world, and I found myself having trouble adjusting to a life without her in the Netherlands. I also signed up for my very first marathon. I want to show you how these circumstances influenced my happiness!
Below table shows the average happiness ratings in September, 2015.
You can see that my average happiness rating was already slightly lower than before. Was this caused by my new long distance relationship period?
That’s exactly what I want to find out with my happiness tracking data!
The chart below shows my happiness ratings during September, 2015:
My happiness ratings look very similar to a freaking roller-coaster… I had a dip in happiness just about every 5 days in September. These dips were partially caused by the new relationship circumstances, but also by a nasty injury I suffered during a soccer game.
I will provide you with some context after I show you the full set of data in a table! 🙂
The table below shows all the happiness ratings for September, 2015, including the factors that influenced it.
Now it’s time to finally add some additional context to my happiness.
My girlfriend traveled to the other side of the globe at the end of August, leaving me behind in the Netherlands. I was to survive without her company for 5 months. You don’t have to feel sorry for me, though. We had already spent quite some time in long distance relationship periods at that time, and I was usually the one to travel. Not this time! I remained in the Netherlands. That meant that I was going to live without one of my biggest sources of happiness.
How was this going to effect my general happiness???
Life in a long distance relationship
I had quite some issues adjusting to the long distance relationship. The biggest issue was clearly communication.
I was still in the Netherlands, working my 9 to 5 engineering job, and enjoying my uneventful life. In the meantime, my girlfriend was in an entirely new continent, exploring a beautiful country, all while meeting dozens of new friends. There was also an eight hour time zone difference, to add to the fun.
Needless to say, our day to day schedule was completely different. As a result,
our my expectations were not aligned with reality.
“My expectations were not alligned with reality”
I kind of expected my girlfriend to put as much effort in communication as I was planning to do. If she wanted to Skype, I would be there. If I wanted to Skype, I would expect her to be there as well. This might sound reasonable, but we were both living in entirely different worlds.
Not only was my girlfriend meeting a lot of new friends, she also just started her internship at a big company and was adjusting to her own 9 to 5 job. As a result, she simply did not have enough time and regularity to keep up our communications. Her life was a lot more turbulent than mine at the time.
I feel like I need to add some clarification here. I am trying to reflect on this period as objectively as possible. It would be unfair to blame a single part of my unhappiness on my girlfriend. We were dealing with tough circumstances and were both struggling with this new situation. At the time, I frequently thought my girlfriend was not making enough time for me, and that would negatively influence my happiness. In hindsight, I now know that it was the situation itself that was causing these issues, not my girlfriend.
Anyway, these communicational issues were negatively influencing my happiness, a lot. I not only lost a big source of happiness, it indirectly turned into a source of unhappiness.
Luckily, I knew I was going to visit my girlfriend in Australia for a few weeks. If anything would be able to cheer me up, it would be just that!
R.I.P. master plan
As I discussed in my previous Monthly Happiness Report, I had created a big master plan. This master plan included me working on another project abroad again, just like I had before. This would mean that I´d be getting a few weeks of leave again, which I obviously would spend in Australia with my girlfriend. I even planned on running my first ever marathon down under. Quite the ambitious plan, right?
Well, it didn’t take long before this plan got utterly crushed by the powerful fist of reality. The dynamic project my employer was involved with in Costa Rica at the time suddenly switched its priorities. As a result, I was not needed anymore. Long story short: I would not be spending my leave in Australia.
Why wouldn’t I simply use my yearly days off on this Australia trip, I hear you ask? Well, I would have gladly done that, if I only had any days left… *sad face*
Anyway, finding out my ambitious plan was incinerated left me feeling quite stressed. I was already having trouble adjusting to the new circumstances I was in, and this sharp turn didn’t help. I was feeling pretty bummed, logically. Me no happy.
Signing up for my first ever marathon!
I felt like I desperately needed something to look forward to. I decided I was going to focus on my other passions.
It was the 14th of September, and I was just surfing the internet during a regular quiet day in the office. And that’s when I suddenly got the idea: “why don’t I just sign up for a marathon now?” Most of the big marathons in the Netherlands were scheduled in early October, which would leave me with about 4 weeks to prepare myself. I decided to run 17 [km] as soon as possible, and if it would not totally suck, then I would sign up.
It sounded like a great plan to me.
I ran 17,5 [km] that evening, and I totally enjoyed it! Considering I hadn’t run that kind of distance in a long time, I was sure I would be okay for the marathon. So I signed up. I was going to run 42.2 [km] in a marathon race on the 11th of October. Holy shit. I had less than 4 weeks to prepare myself, both physically and mentally.
Just a day after I signed up, I injured myself during soccer practice. I pulled my hamstring during a short sprint… Oh my God. Did I just waste my money? Did I have to change my entire plan, again?? I was furious, scared, stressed and anxious at the same time.
Let’s dive into the specific effects of these factors on my happiness!
Positive happiness factors
The chart below shows all the factors that positively influenced my happiness.
As you might notice, my sources of happiness shifted quite drastically as my girlfriend wasn’t around anymore. Normally, my relationship would be quite high on this list. Now? Not so much anymore. My relationship only positively influenced my happiness once. Just once!
Luckily, there were still some other factors that were providing me with happiness 🙂
The biggest positive happiness factor was running, just like it had been before so many times already.
I wanted to step it up a little. I tried to run as much as possible in September, and it all went quite well. However, you can still see a pretty significant streak of no running at all. What happened? I’ll answer that question later in this post. Let’s first focus on the positive!
So you can see my 17,5 [km] run on the 14th of September. That was the run that made me decide to sign up for my first marathon, on the 11th of October. I had only 4 weeks to prepare for this gigantic challenge! What the hell was I thinking?
In hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to run a marathon on 4 weeks of preparation. Without the proper preparation, marathons can actually be quite harmful to your body.
I didn’t care, however. I just wanted to cross this thing off my list of goals, as soon as possible. So I kept on running. I didn’t follow any marathon training plan. Hell, I’d be surprised if a 3 week marathon training schedule actually exists… 🙂
I ran another 17,5 [km] five days later, followed by a 25 [km] run just two days later. This was the time I really fell in love with the idea of running long distances. This was such an eye-opening experience, I decided to cover this entire day in a ‘Good day’ post.
As I ran these long distances, I more than doubled my average weekly mileage, just like that. It was quite foolish, really, but I very much enjoyed every single minute on these runs. My body was completely sore and bruised after every run, and my recovery time was obviously way too short by normal standards. I never fully recovered in between these runs. It meant that I was running while still aching from the previous run. I couldn’t really care much though, as long as I was able to continue running.
“My body was completely sore and bruised after every run”
I ran my longest run of 27,2 [km] just 14 days prior to the marathon. I was completely wrecked when I finished, and couldn’t walk straight for a couple of days after. But it was absolutely magnificent. I felt like I was definitely ready for this marathon! Even though my four week preparation schedule was complete madness, I still thoroughly enjoyed running these long distances.
Anyway, training for this marathon was the biggest source of happiness for me in September, 2015. I don’t think I would have been as happy if I hadn’t found this new challenge.
Negative happiness factors
It’s time for the negative happiness factors now. Unfortunately, there were quite some factors negatively influencing my happiness in September. These are shown in the chart below.
There are two negative happiness factors that I would like to discuss here…
My long distance relationship
My long distance relationship quickly turned into a negative happiness factor. It didn’t take long before the communicational issues between me and my girlfriend started to irritate me. During our previous long distance relationship periods, I was always the one traveling and doing exciting stuff. Now, not so much anymore. I was living my boring, uneventful life, while my girlfriend was having a blast in Australia.
There were a lot of tiny emotions in my head that were slowly clouding my objective vision. I constantly had these negative thoughts going on in my mind, like: “she doesn’t care about you”, or “you will be super bored the coming 5 months”. You get the idea…
“She doesn’t care about you”
I wish I could say now that I was strong enough to not let these tiny ‘voices’ influence my happiness. But I was not, and my happiness suffered greatly because of it. I had a lot of difficulties adjusting to this new situation.
Anyway, the happiness ratio of my relationship was deeply negative during this month… I don’t want to spoil the next few reports, but this ratio remained negative far longer than just September. This entire long distance relationship period would become something that I now refer to as ‘Relationship hell’.
I’ve written an entire article about the happiness ratio of my relationship during this time.
Let’s continue to the next negative happiness factor, shall we?
Before I decided to sign up for my marathon, I was still playing soccer every week. Early in September, on the 5th, I suffered a nasty hamstring injury during one of the practices. Needless to say, the soccer practice sucked, and I was not able to run as a result. This had a terrible effect on my happiness.
I wasn’t able to run for almost a week. Hamstring injuries take a damn long time to heal, so I had to be super careful to not injure it any further. Luckily, hamstrings are mostly strained when accelerating in short burst, so I didn’t really burden the muscle that much during my slow-paced long distance runs. Still, I was very afraid to ruin my plans by getting injured again.
A day after I signed up for the marathon, I joined another soccer practice with my team again. I didn’t want to forget about soccer altogether. The hamstring was feeling OK, and 11 days had already passed since my first injury.
“I thought my entire plan was wiped from the surface of the earth”
As you might expect, this was a terrible idea. As soon as I started running small bursts with lots of acceleration in this practice, I pulled my hamstring again. I thought my entire plan was wiped from the surface of the earth. No marathon for me… This is what caused the dip in my happiness on the 17th of September. I was feeling bummed yet again.
I luckily was able to continue my long runs, without hurting my hamstring any further. Sure, it wasn’t always comfortable, but I was going to finish this freaking marathon, with or without injury.
I want to leave it here. September 2015 marked the start of my episode in ‘Relationship hell’, and my happiness suffered as a result. Luckily, training for a marathon was compensating quite a lot of this suffering. I was running the marathon on October, 11th, so I will cover that and more in the next Monthly Happiness Report!
If you have any questions about anything, please let me know in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to answer you!
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.