Another full year of tracking happiness means that I've been able to analyse the results again. After analysing my yearly happiness statistics of 2014, it's interesting to see how I've improved. That is, if I've been able to improve my happiness at all. Before I get into the dirty details, I've animated my happiness ratings throughout 2015 in the animation below. This animation shows my daily happiness ratings along with the monthly and weekly moving averages. The bar charts show the biggest happiness factors for a moving 28 day period. Oh, and before I forget, the box in the lower right corner shows whether or not my relationship was long distance at the time. I will cover the all the details in this post.
Table of content
I've been able to create this animation after tracking my happiness for the entire year. Not only have I tracked my happiness, I've also kept track of what factors influenced my happiness. This has been going on since the end of 2013. In this article, I want to explain exactly what I gain from tracking happiness, and how I could use this data to steer my life in the best direction.
What exactly am I looking to find out?
Just like last year, I want to answer the following questions, by looking closely at my data:
- What were the biggest contributors to my happiness in 2015?
- What factors had the biggest negative influence on my happiness?
- Was there anything I could have done to further increase my happiness?
Also, after analysing 2014, I observed a couple of things that I should have focused on. I determined that running was one of the biggest happiness factors in 2014, so I should try and do more of that, right?
Also, my relationship was challenged with a long distance period, which were to be avoided if I wanted a happy relationship. Furthermore, I determined I should have spend more time with friends and family, as these were a very reliable source of happiness for me. Finally, I was wondering whether or not my work was going to have a positive impact on my happiness. I will try to answer every single one of these queries in this article.
My happiness ratings
Let's first answer one of the easiest questions: was I happier in 2015 compared to 2014?
My average happiness rating of 2014 was 7,86. Pretty high, in my opinion. I traveled to New Zealand for 5 months, I enjoyed a great holiday with my girlfriend and started my career as an engineer. 2014 was definitely a good year for me!
My average happiness rating of 2015 was a 7,54. This is a pretty significant decrease. There are a couple of reasons for this decline, which I want to discuss in this post.
Let me first show you every single happiness rating of 2015. I've charted my daily, moving weekly and monthly average happiness ratings. As usual, I've included some small comments here and there to add context. This is the data that I used to create the animation at the start of this post. This chart is rather wide, so feel free to scroll from left to right!
The year 2015 was quite an intense year for me.
I started my career in the end of 2014. Well, that career decided that I would be working abroad sometimes again. At the end of January, I traveled to Kuwait to work on a huge project. This was initially very exciting, but a couple of reasons caused me to get burned out rather quickly. This resulted in one of the worst happiness ratings of 2015 on the 9th of February. It was my worst day ever, and I rated it with a 3,0.
Back in the Netherlands, things were mostly okay again. Even though my work was still not spetacular, I found happiness in spending time with my girlfriend and running a lot. I described this period as my happy, uneventful life.
It was then that my career decided to send me abroad again, to work on another project. And so I went to Costa Rica at the end of May. This was going to be another challenging period, but by tracking my happiness during my previous experience on a project, I knew exactly what I should and shouldn't do. This period was therefore much better, and I actually enjoyed it, despite working >80 hours a week.
My girlfriend and I were very happy to go on a perfect camping trip to Croatia together in July. We both needed it after busy and challenging periods. This was the happiest month of the year, with an average happiness rating of 8,14. This holiday also produced the happiest days of the year, which I rated with a 9,0.
This quickly changed when my girlfriend started her internship in Australia, which meant another big long distance period. This long distance period started at the end of August, and it was simultaneously the start of a period I now refer to as 'Relationship hell'. This period sent our relationship in a downward spiral, and it was severely affecting my happiness. It was very hard to maintain a level of happiness while my biggest happiness factor was gone. My second worst day ever happened during this period, as I got a huge fever on the day my relationship was in the gutter. Another 3,0.
This period lasted until the end of the year. She would actually not return to the Netherlands before the end of January, 2016. It was the hardest period we've experienced together, but I'm very happy to say that we came out stronger. It took quite some time before our relationship fully recovered, but as I'm writing this report, I am still very happy in love with my girlfriend.
Fun fact: out of the 365 days in 2015, we spent 209 in a long distance relationship. That's a whopping 57%! What happened to avoiding long distance relationship periods...? Ugh..
Let’s take a look at all my happiness factors. What exactly made me happy in 2015? That’s what I want to find out.
However, I first want to show you a simple overview of all the happiness factors throughout the year. As you might know already, I track both the positive and negative happiness factors. Happiness factors can best be explained as things or events that have an influence on my happiness. It's step 2 in my method of tracking happiness. Below pie chart shows the count of positive and negative factors that affected my happiness.
So in total, I determined 798 happiness factors in 2015. These are split into 585 positive and 213 negative happiness factors. The ratio between the positive and negative factors is 2,75 (585 divided by 213). I call this the happiness ratio. It means that for every negative happiness factor, there are almost 3 positive factors making me happy. Although this might not tell you a lot about my year, it's interesting to compare this happiness ratio to what it was in 2014.
I determined 729 happiness factors during 2014, of which 560 were positive and 169 negative. This resulted in a happiness ratio of 3,31, which is quite a bit higher than 2015. It's interesting to see how this drop in happiness ratio matches the drop in my happiness ratings in 2015.
I’m not just interested in the basic count of happiness factors, though. I want to know which factors had the most influence in 2015. As I've stated at the start of this article, I'm also very interested in how these factors have shifted from 2014 to 2015. Let’s start by looking at the positive happiness factors.
Positive happiness factors
The chart below shows all my positive happiness factors during the year 2015. The grey bars show the same results for 2014. It's very easy to answer a couple of my initial questions based on this chart.
The biggest contributor to my happiness in 2015 was my relationship. It positively influenced my happiness on 98 days. This is down quite a lot compared to 2014, during which my relationship increased my happiness on 119 days. What exactly changed? Well, I think the long distance periods are the primary cause for this drop.
Not only did we experience more and longer long distance periods in 2015, the difficulty of these periods was also worse. Our long distance period that started when my girlfriend went to Australia was extremely challenging, and it nearly ended our relationship. This obviously didn't have a positive influence at all. With that said, it's still nice to see my relationship topping this list. My girlfriend really does make me happy, and I feel very lucky to be in a relationship with her.
Not unrelated to this topic is the in-depth analysis I wrote specifically for my relationship.
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I thoroughly enjoyed times at which I did not have anything to do, at all. My periods on the projects in Kuwait and Costa Rica left me quite exhausted, because I simply did not have the time to fully relax. I made sure to properly cool down during my time in the Netherlands, and it worked wonders for my happiness.
Relaxing is obviously quite a broad concept, but I think of relaxing as spending time just doing nothing significant or worth mentioning. This could be browsing YouTube or Reddit, watching series or movies alone or listening to music. One of the pre-requirements for relaxing is to have an empty agenda! 🙂 I've described it as my happy, uneventful life: even though I didn't participate in any activities worth mentioning, I was quite a happy person. 🙂 I did this a lot more in 2015 compared to 2014.
Work is a pretty interesting happiness factor, as it could have both a positive and negative influence on my happiness. It's also interesting since most of us are forced to work in some way, shape or form, for about 40 hours a week (me included). We all need the money, right?
Therefore, it's very nice to see that I actually enjoyed my work on 72 days. I started my career as an engineer in 2014 and continued to work this job during 2015. Looking back, I can honestly say that I found a nice job and feel lucky to be where I'm at. Some people feel miserable at their jobs, and I certainly wouldn't want to be one of them...
With that said, I estimate I worked about 220 days in 2015. Assuming that number is about right, I only really enjoyed 33% of these days, or one in every three days. Should I be happy with that number? There are probably people out there who would love that kind of ratio, while others might read this in shock and awe. I simply don't know yet.
Running, running, running...
Ah.... There it is! Running: arguably my biggest passion. At the end of 2014, I determined I should be running more, since I enjoyed it so consistently. I ran exactly 612 kilometres in 2015, compared to about 300 in 2014 (I unfortunately lost some running logs...) A nice increase!
Despite not being able to run at all during my periods abroad in Kuwait* and Costa Rica, running still took the 4th spot on my list of biggest positive happiness factors. It confirms to me that running is indeed one of my biggest passions, and therefore a great source of happiness.
* I tried running once in Kuwait, and never tried again after being chased by wild dogs twice.
I also wanted to run a marathon before the end of 2015. It was a goal I had set at the end of 2014. Well, I'm happy to report that I finished my first marathon on the 11th of October, and it was more than I ever hoped it would be. After I crossed the finish line, I knew I wanted to run more marathons. Also, I wanted to finish one within 4 hours. Therefore, I had set myself the following goals:
- To run 2 marathons in 2016
- To run at least 1.000 kilometres in 2016
There are a couple of other positive happiness factors that I want to mention.
My friends had previously been the 2nd biggest happiness factor in 2014, but only ranked 7th in 2015. What happened here? Well, in 2014 I traveled all throughout New Zealand with new-found friends. This was an amazing experience, but unfortunately couldn't last. In fact, I spent quite some time traveling alone in 2015.
When I was working on the projects abroad, I had no friends whatsoever. Being the introvert that I am, I didn't have a huge problem with this, but I could have used some friends at some times during these periods. This explains the big drop here. Of course, I did my best to hang out with my close friends in the Netherlands, which did increase my happiness ratings. Only not as often as it did back in 2014.
In contrast, I'm happy to see an increased amount of positive influence of my family. I got to enjoy more time with my family in 2015 as opposed to 2014, and it had a positive influence on my happiness.
It's also interesting to see Exercising at the 6th position. This one has a funny story as well. After burning out in Kuwait partially due to not being able to run outside, I knew I needed something else in Costa Rica. I didn't want to feel isolated and miserable again, so I adapted to a sacred exercise routine. As a result, I started exercising almost every single day while in Costa Rica, which really helped take my mind of the challenging working conditions. It was a great way for me to increase my happiness without being able to run outside.
Finally, I bought a PlayStation 4 on the 3rd of October. I was having difficulties adjusting to the new long distance period of my relationship. I was also quite bored on some of these days, so I eventually decided to buy the latest gaming console. This instantly increased my happiness ratings, as it kept me occupied during these difficult times. Instead of feeling down because of my long distance relationship, I was shooting zombies instead in The Last Of Us. 🙂 In my opinion, this is still one of the best expenses I have made to date, as I've analysed in another big analysis.
Negative happiness factors
It's time for the negative happiness factors! The chart below shows the negative happiness factors of 2015 compared to 2014.
My relationship: the dark side of the moon
Just like the previous year, my relationship was both the top performer and the worst performer. Does this make sense?
Yes, it does. Every relationship goes through ups and downs. So does mine.
This means that the good periods are sometimes torn apart by bad arguments, disagreements, or in my case: long distance (and shitty communication as a result).
Most of the instances where my relationship negatively influenced my happiness occured during our long distance periods. The biggest culprit here was the period in which my girlfriend traveled to Australia for 5 months. I have refered to this period as Relationship Hell, and it caused a huge dent in our relationship. Most of our issues during this period were caused by a lack of communication. As a result, we both got frustrated with each other really fast, which made this period a hell for the both of us.
Luckily, we managed to survive this period together. I like to think that I can partially thank this to my experience with happiness tracking. I had already been tracking happiness for quite a while at the time, and because of this, I knew exactly how much of a positive influence my relationship could have in my life. The potential was enormous, and too much to just give up on. Even though the going got really though on some occasions, I knew that our relationship was something worth fighting for.
So that's what we both did. We fought for what we had, and I don't want to spoil my future reports here, but we are both still very happy that we did. 🙂
Work, work, work, work
Even though 72 days were positively influenced by my work in 2015, a total of 39 were negatively influenced by it. 2015 was my first full year of working as an engineer, and I can say it was a very interesting period. I worked as a trainee, which meant I was deployed on various projects for relatively short durations. Some I liked. Some I disliked. I think this is very apparent in my data.
One example that springs to mind is my adventure as an expat in Kuwait. Even though I initially liked the job, it didn't take long before I burned out on the >80 hour work weeks and and a total lack of sleep. Luckily, I learned from this experience and changed my way of life on my next assignment in Costa Rica. For example, I started to exercise on an almost daily basis when I was there. That's why exercising became the 6th biggest positive happiness factor. I was much happier during this second period as a result, and I can honestly say that I knew what needed to improve by tracking my happiness.
My work will be an interesting subject in a further, more detailed analysis. Therefore, keep an eye out for my 'Happiness Through...' section!
After the previous year, I knew that tiredness and sleep deprivation was sometimes limiting my happiness. This didn't change in 2015. The exact impact of this is still unknown to me, as I haven't yet analysed the precise influence of sleep on my happiness.
On some occasions, I decided to sleep less by going to bed at a later time. This allowed me to spend more time doing things that I liked, e.g. playing video games, watching series or enjoying a night out with my girlfriend. As a result, my happiness would increase. However, this introduced a new problem with my happiness, as I was getting more tired. My sleep deprivation would eventually catch up with me and cause me to be less happy. The net effect of this is very hard to determine.
Again, I am going to try and analyse this sleep deprivation vs. happiness thing in a more detailed analysis. What I do know, however, is that my tiredness caused me to be less happy on 36 days in 2015.
Boredom, when relaxing happens a little too often
The 4th biggest negative happiness factor is boredom. Being bored is generally not good for my happiness. It happened on 26 days in 2015. What caused this? I tend to think I took the relaxing part of life a bit too far.
Sure, having an empty agenda is great for relaxing and cooling down after busy periods. But not having anything to work towards or look out for can turn this relaxation into boredom. That's what happened on those 26 days. This happened even more frequently when my girlfriend was in Australia. I was suddenly bored a little bit too much to my own liking, so I decided to buy a PlayStation 4. This helped a great deal in fighting the boredom. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I regard this as one of the better expenses I have ever made. This single expense almost directly increased my happiness!
How can I make 2016 a happier year?
Based on this extensive analysis, I conclude that there were three aspects in my life which I could try to influence and improve in 2016. These factors had a huge influence on my happiness, so I should therefore focus as much as possible on these aspects in life, right? Here they come!
1. No more long periods of work abroad
My whole experience in Kuwait was pretty eye-opening to me. Even though I generally enjoyed my work on the projects, I could never maintain my happiness while working >80 hour work weeks. These periods had a huge effect on my happiness, and I had to give up a lot of my passions in order to survive these periods without burning out. It was just too much.
After finishing the traineeship, I wanted to restrain myself from being deployed on another one of these projects. Especially if it was for a relatively longer period. I could survive 2 or 3 weeks, yes, but anything longer than that would likely result in a decreased level of happiness. That was not something I wanted.
This brings me to my next point:
2. No more long distance relationship
At the end of 2015, I was still in relationship hell. I was in a long distance relationship that was slowly eating me from inside. I thought my girlfriend and I had a great and strong relationship, but this period - relationship hell - took us close to the edge. Obviously, I wanted no more of that.
This influenced my decision to avoid long periods of work abroad, and both my girlfriend and I knew we had to spend more quality time together in order to recover from this shitty period. Therefore, we both decided that we wanted to avoid long distance relationship periods in the future. No matter how strong a relationship is, I think sustained long distances are capable of crushing any relationship, bond or friendship if you let it.
We decided to fight for what we had, but that didn't mean it was easy. I valued my relationship too much, so I decided to avoid these kind of situations in the future. No more long distance relationship for me, please!
3. Even more running!
It was very clear to me that I should run even more. After running my first marathon in 2015, I knew I wanted to complete more. So I set myself the goal of finishing 2 more marathons in 2015. I also wanted to further challenge myself, so I determined I wanted to finish a marathon under 4 hours.
In addition, I wanted to run more than 1.000 kilometres in 2016. Running was one of the most consistent positive happiness factors of 2015, so it only made sense for me to try and run even more. The exact influence on running on my happiness will be analysed in more detail in the 'Happiness Through...' section. Keep an eye out!
I’ll stop here before this post gets too long. I can continue to analyse my yearly happiness data to an eternity, but I don't want to bore you to death with more details.
If you are interested in reading more about my specific monthly happiness, I suggest you continue reading my monthly happiness reports!
I hope you enjoyed this second Yearly Happiness Statistics post. I certainly did! It enables me to see exactly what I should focus on in my life. After all, happiness is the only thing that we should all pursue in life.
As always, if you have any questions whatsoever, please leave a comment below! I’ll gladly answer any questions you might have!