Another complete year has gone by already, and I want to see the results! 2017 was another great year for me and was on par with my previous full year 2016. As usual, I will do my best to explain exactly what I improved on in this post. How happy was I exactly? And more importantly, what factors had the biggest influence on my happiness? I have a lot of data to show you, so let’s get right to it!
I’ve created a big animation, showing what my happiness looked like in 2017. This animation shows all the data I collected in 2017. My daily happiness ratings are shown on top with the 7-day moving average. The two bar charts show all the happiness factors that have influenced the happiness ratings, both positive and negative.
Table of content
I’ve been able to create the animation above 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 2017?
- What factors had the biggest negative influence on my happiness?
- Was there anything I could have done to further increase my happiness?
In last year’s report, I used the opportunity to see how I could consciously turn 2017 into a better year. 2016 turned out to be such an amazing year, that I mostly wanted to focus on keeping it that way. I really enjoyed my life in 2016, so wanted to focus on the things that clearly made me happy. What emerged were two key topics I wanted to focus on.
- Continue spending quality time with my girlfriend
- Run even more
Now, you may frown when reading the goal “Run even more”. Let me elaborate: I divided this big goal into 3 sub-targets. I wanted to run 1.500 kilometers, 2 marathons under 4 hours and a 5K race under 20 minutes. They were really sharp targets, but I figured this running could only make me happier!
Let’s see if I succeeded with these goals in 2017, shall we? 🙂
My happiness ratings
Let’s start again with the easiest question: was I happier in 2017 compared to 2016?
It turns out that I did preeeetty well in 2017. My average happiness rating of the year was 7,86. This is practically the same as the year before and confirms to me that 2017 was indeed a great year for me.
Fantastic. Now what?
Let’s have a closer look at my year of happiness. I’ve charted my daily, moving weekly and monthly average happiness ratings. Just like before, I have sprinkled some comments here and there to add context to the data. This is the same data that was used to create the animation at the start of this post. This chart is pretty wide, so feel free to scroll from left to right!
Let me take you on a brief walk through my year in happiness.
My year 2017 started with two fantastic trips. I took my girlfriend on a long weekend holiday to Marrakesh, Morocco as a (long overdue) gift for her birthday. In February, I joined my friends on a snowboarding trip to the Austrian Alps. Both holidays were great and it was a very promising start to the new year!
The rest of February and March were pretty great as well, as I was truly enjoying my simple and routinary life in the Netherlands. Things were going great.
Then, when April came around, my work got significantly busier. Some projects reached their deadlines and it started to affect my happiness. At the time, I wasn’t really enjoying my work. In fact, it was the biggest negative happiness factor for a brief time. Luckily, I still had other factors that compensated for my situation at work, for example, my girlfriend and running.
I ran the Paris marathon on the 9th of April. It was my first shot at reaching my ambitious goals in 2017. You remember? I wanted to run 2 marathons within 4 hours in 2017.
I unfortunately didn’t manage to squeeze past the finish line in 4 hours. As a result, I had to forfeit my first running goal of 2017.
Did I feel bad about it?
At least, not for long. Running marathons is something that brings me a tremendous feeling of pride and accomplishment, which results in my happiness. Finishing the marathon itself was far more important to me than some arbitrary goal.
I actually did manage to reach my second running goal of 2017 in May. I signed up for a local 5K race, thinking “meh, I’ll just give this a shot to see where I stand”. And low and behold, I actually managed to finish within 20 minutes!
When June came around, the projects at my work had mostly cooled down again. I was back to enjoying my simple and happy life. I spent a lot of fantastic quality time with my girlfriend. We also went on a beautiful holiday to Montenegro, which actually resulted in the best day of the year according to my happiness ratings. I rated the 11th of June with a 9.0 on my happiness rating scale. It was the day my girlfriend and I rented a car to explore the beautiful countryside of Montenegro.
July was a totally different month again. I visited two projects abroad for my work in Germany and Mexico. It was a really busy time, and I managed to get myself sick just before flying to Mexico. It was a tough period and July was actually the worst month if you look at the monthly average happiness ratings. August wasn’t much better because I felt pretty worn out on a lot of days. My girlfriend and I were both longing for a break.
And that’s when we started our epic road trip to Norway. We spent almost the entire month of September on the beautiful roads of Scandinavia. It was a spectacular trip and it really solidified my relationship with my girlfriend.
However, right before this road trip, I suffered from a huge infection in the wounds of my removed wisdom teeth. This resulted in my worst day of the year. I was in a big amount of pain and couldn’t even talk for a while. I had to get back to the hospital in order to remove the infected area. I’ll spare you the details here, but let’s just say this day was reaaally unpleasant.
October went by quite uneventfully. I had planned another marathon in December, so I wanted to run as much as possible in preparation.
Unfortunately, I suffered from a nasty shin splint in November and it started to take me down. That’s when I decided to stop running altogether and focus on recovering instead. It meant that I wouldn’t reach my third running goal of reaching 1.500 kilometers in 2017. I eventually landed on a total of 1.280 kilometers. Not bad, but quite far from the goals I had set myself. This bummed me out quite a bit…
Even though I couldn’t run, November and December were still great months for me. My work was great – albeit pretty busy – and I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my friends and family.
My girlfriend landed her first job in December as well, which meant we could start looking for an apartment together! This consumed a lot of our time in December, but we managed to find a great place right at the end of 2017.
And we got the place! We were going to start the new year in our very own apartment. It couldn’t get any better, right?
Anyway, that’s what my 2017 looked like. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s finally have a look at all the happiness factors that influenced my happiness in 2017.
What made me happy in 2017. That’s exactly what I want to find out in this analysis.
I track both the positive and negative happiness factors in my life. Happiness factors can best be explained as things or events that have an influence on my happiness on a daily basis. 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 in 2017.
I determined a total of 854 happiness factors in 2017. As you can see, the ratio between the positive and negative factors is 3,80 (676 divided by 178). I call this the happiness ratio.
It means that for every negative happiness factor, there were almost 4 positive factors influencing my happiness.
This happiness ratio was 4,94 in 2016, a little bit higher. This might explain why I was a little happier in 2016. The difference is pretty negligible in my opinion though.
Obviously, I’m not just interested in the basic count of happiness factors. I want to know which factors had the most influence in 2017. As I’ve stated at the start of this post, I’m very interested in how these factors have shifted from 2016 to 2017. 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 2017. The grey bars show the same results for 2016. It’s very easy to answer a couple of my initial questions based on this chart.
There is a clear winner to me here, and that is my relationship.
2017 was a fantastic year for my girlfriend and me and it shows in the chart. My girlfriend positively influenced 170 days of my year! We tried to a as much fun stuff together as possible and did pretty well in that regards. The highlights of 2017 were easily our holidays to Norway and Lapland, Montenegro and Morocco.
We also didn’t face any real long distance periods, which really helped our cause. We have experienced quite some long distance periods in the past, and they always had a negative effect on our relationship.
You can basically say that our relationship has been unchallenged in 2017. As a result, my girlfriend was the biggest source of my happiness. Out of all the happiness factors, my girlfriend has the most influence on my happiness.
I have tried to analyse this effect in a very detailed post, which you might be interested in!
Trying to reach my running goals
The second biggest positive happiness factor in 2017 was running.
I love running. It is one of my dearest passions. In 2016, I managed to run 2 marathons and beat all of my personal goals.
I wanted to continue this trend in 2017. So I set these really ambitious goals, hoping I would again be able to smash them.
While I only reached one of the three goals I set – finishing a 5K under 20 minutes – the process of trying to reach these goals had a great effect on my happiness. I ran my fourth marathon in Paris, which was a great experience again.
But all the training runs definitely deserve some credit here. Going out to run after a long and busy day of work has a great effect on my happiness. It can really turn my day around.
As a result, running made me a happier person on 116 days in 2017!
Working and relaxing
2017 was an interesting year for my career. I started working as an engineer at a big maritime contractor at the end of 2014, and was slowly becoming a well-functioning cog in the machine!
This made my work a lot more fun! My work had a positive influence on my happiness on a whopping 58 days! Not bad, in my opinion.
My work was certainly getting busier as well. In 2016, I remember I had quite some periods where I was a bit bored at work. Well, I had veeeery few of those moments in 2017. This increased workload had a mostly positive effect, as I got to do more interesting stuff, work on cool projects and time in the office passed very quickly.
Partially because of this increased workload, I wanted to make sure I took enough time to decompress after work. I tried my best to relax as often as possible.
For me, relaxing means doing stuff that is relatively insignificant and that doesn’t require much energy. When I say I’m relaxing, I’m usually either watching a series, sports, browsing YouTube or Reddit, reading a book or casually playing a video game. Or, of course, a combination of these things.
I was consciously trying to relax as much as possible, in part due to my increased workload at the office. And it helped! This so-called relaxing increased my happiness on 81 days!
2017 was filled with a boatload of positive happiness factors. But what about the negative happiness factors then?
Negative happiness factors
Before discussing the negative factors, let me show you what I had to say about the previous year. I wrote the following about the negative happiness factors in 2016:
It was a great sign for me. My relationship only negatively influenced my happiness on 24 days (down from 41 days in 2015). My girlfriend and I really reconnected during 2016, and we were both happy with our relationship after the rough start we had.
So at the end of 2016, I was very happy to see that my relationship was not also the biggest negative happiness factor anymore!
Well, what happened in 2017?
The chart below shows the negative happiness factors of 2017 compared to 2016.
Can you see it? My relationship only negatively influenced my happiness on three days!
This fully proves to me that 2017 was a terrific year for my relationship. I am crossing my fingers and hope this state of happiness only continues. I moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend in January 2018, so it will be interesting to see whether or not it has any impact on the state of my relationship!
Anyway, what about the actual negative happiness factors?
Sleep versus happiness
Just like last year, my lack of (quality) sleep was the biggest negative happiness factor in 2017. My tiredness affected my happiness on 58 days.
Again, I’m not certain if I feel bad about this. I had the same doubts during my last year’s analysis. I’ll copy and paste what I had to say about it here since it’s still completely relevant:
I want to be as happy as possible. We all do, right? Well, in order to become and stay happy, we need to be AWAKE. Our happiness doesn’t generally increase while we are asleep (there are probably some exceptions). We need to be awake in order to become happier, by doing the things we enjoy doing. Feeling well rested will only make it easier for us to enjoy the things we enjoy doing.
So there is a certain dilemma here.
You see, I have sacrificed my sleep many times in 2016. But I have always tried to do fun stuff in the extra time that I’m awake. I might watch a cool series before going to bed, or spend a nice night with my girlfriend. If the feeling of tiredness is the result of that decision, if does not necessarily mean that it was a bad decision.
The happiness I gain from doing the things that I like may outweigh the unhappiness I gain from being tired.
So I don’t believe I can accurately measure the exact effect of my tiredness. Sure, I might feel less happy as a result of feeling tired, but it also means that I got to spend more time awake. And that time awake might have resulted in an increased level of happiness.
What does interest me, however, is the fact that I was sick on 21 days in 2017.
Sick, stressed and busy
It’s pretty clear to me that 2017 was a busier year compared to 2016. My work was a much more prominent factor. It influenced my happiness on 80 days in 2017, as opposed to only 38 in 2016.
Work was more fun, that’s for sure. But it was also way more busy and challenging. As a result, I think I was sick, stressed and busy more often. There were a couple of times where I simply felt a little overwhelmed, like there were not enough hours in a day.
I felt sick on 21 days in 2017, which is way more often than the year before. There’s no way for me to prove it, but I think this has something to do with my increased workload and mismanagement of my sleep. I knew I needed to improve these issues in 2018.
And that brings me to the most important question of this post.
How can I make 2018 an even happier year?
2017 was another great year for me. By tracking my happiness, I know exactly what caused this to be such a good year. This allows me to better plan 2018. What can I do to make 2018 an ever happier year?
I’ve come to the following targets:
1. Continue spending quality time with my girlfriend
My relationship was just about perfect in 2017, and I want this state to continue all throughout 2018. It’s going to be interesting though, as we will be living together for the first time in 2018.
We are both going to try to spend as much quality time together as possible. Just like in 2017, this includes great holidays together and going on fun dates as often as we can.
2. Run as much as possible without getting injured
2016 had been a crazy year for me on the running front. I wanted this to continue in 2017, which is why I had very ambitious goals.
In the end, I kind of pushed these goals a little too hard. I only reached one of the three goals I had set for myself. What’s worse, is that I got injured in the process of reaching these goals. This obviously didn’t have a positive influence on my happiness.
So now what?
In 2018, I’m going to keep my running goals vague. I don’t want to jinx my happiness while pursuing some big arbitrary goal.
That’s why I want to run “as much as possible” in 2018 without getting injured.
I’d be great if I can finish another marathon before the end of the year, but I won’t make it a definitive goal. I’m just going to enjoy running for a while, without pushing myself towards or beyond a certain goal. I care more about my happiness than some goal. And if I want running to make me happier, than I can’t use any injuries.
3. Take control of my sleep habits
My lack of (quality) sleep has often had a negative effect on my happiness in 2017. I want to see if I can turn this around in 2018. I want my tiredness to have a much smaller effect in 2018.
This mostly means that I have to go to bed earlier. It’s going to be challenging, but I’m dedicated to at least try it and see whether or not the results are positive.
4. Take it slow and relax
2017 was a really busy year at times. It is therefore very important for me to take it slow and relax whenever I can.
I don’t want stress, sickness or tiredness to have an effect on my happiness. That’s why I am going to try to take it slow in 2018.
What am I aiming for here? Well, it would be great if I can significantly reduce the amount of days that are negatively affected by stress, sickness or tiredness in 2018. Let’s see if I can make a change here.
If you are interested in reading more about my specific monthly happiness, I suggest you continue reading my monthly happiness reports! These also include excerpts from my happiness tracking journal, so you can see exactly how I was tracking my happiness at the time.
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I hope you enjoyed this Yearly Happiness Statistics post as much as I did. These yearly round-ups allow me to see exactly what I should focus on in my life.
As always, if you have any questions whatsoever, please leave a comment below! I’ll gladly answer any questions you might have!
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 6 years.