What does it actually take to make us happy?

- Worker Happiness

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by Giovanni Battista Pozza

Don’t put off til tomorrow the happiness that you can enjoy today.

Happiness can be measured in an experience-based way rather than using considerations of how well life is going overall. Those considerations are usually too vague to push us to change our lives and make a commitment or action.

Obviously life goes better when we are happy. But what exactly is happiness?

The way we define happiness affects what we can do to improve it. Generally we pay more attention to what we think should make us happy and not on what actually does.

From this point of view, happiness becomes the most important feedback we gain from our behaviour. We can trust our experiences more than any other thing in your life such as intuitions, feelings or beliefs. If an activity makes us feel happy and we are aware of that, we are more likely to carry on doing it.

Daily Happiness Map: How to take special note of everyday experience

To help this quest you could consider writing a diary of your happy habits completing a visual daily map that you can use afterward to change something and shift yourself from bad habits to good ones. But first you need to be aware of them.

The Daily Happiness Map, I will present in this article, is an easy-to-use canvas for assessing what you do during the day or the week or for even a month and how happy you are with your experiences. It is adapted from the Day Reconstruction Method (DRM) proposed by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues in 2004.

The Daily Happiness Map is designed specifically to facilitate accurate assessment of daily activities and daily mood. Evaluation and memory are important themselves because they play an huge role in our decision-making. We are all interested in the stories of our own lives.

For this challenge you assess habits on a regular basis, for personal use or with your team or family. You can use it with specific domains (e.g. work, life) and interaction partners (e.g. friends, colleagues, manager) during each reported activity. Personally I tried it with my girlfriend and results were fascinating.

You can do it on daily or weekly or monthly basis.

If you do it on daily basis you can compare day-to-day experiences and introduce some changes and improvements.

Your happiness is determined by how we allocate our attention. What we attend to drives our behavior and it determines our happiness. Attention is the glue that holds our life together.

Paul Dolan

How to practice Daily Happiness Mapping

As a first step, you have to reconstruct what you did yesterday, beginning with waking up in the morning and ending with going to bed. You have to write down each activity that lasted 20 minutes or more. Next you rate how well you remember you felt during each of these activities, with whom you were and when and where it was.

Of course, some hours on the canvas will be work hours and others personal. You obviously don’t do anything in the night, just sleeping, but you can put a number to express happiness during sleep time on your bed. Next day you can write down it if your night was happy, it means you slept well and you woke up fresh and rested.

Following that reasoning you may look back on how you slept and figure out some solutions (i.e. not to check email before sleeping and respect a correct digital detox).

A major part of the solution to these problems is right under your nose: it is just a case of looking at these pieces of evidence in an unbiased way, to think more about happiness than at your comfort zone that pushes you into the Procrastination Zone where you prefer not to change things.

Do you ever think about what experiences bring happiness to you? It’s a sort of simple meditation you can use to pay attention to your feelings and emotions about experiences you have done yet. You experience lots of mood in a day — happy, sad, excited and so on — but to keep things simple and learn you may consider these three moods for the challenge:

  • happy
  • neutral
  • bad

A happy mood is what simply makes you happy with your inner and outer self.

A neutral mood prevails most during life, generally speaking. It is not a positive or not even a negative mood. A neutral mood indicates that life is moving on its treadmill and all the action in life is going as per prediction. But sometimes life needs a surprise or passion.

A bad mood follows an experience that leaves you stressed, angry, sad, or mentally exhausted.

Considering the challenge from an agile mindset you can think the time basis as iterations and you can apply agile methodology introducing a retrospective and improvement at any stage. But that’s another story for a future challenge!

Following this challenge, it’s very simple to find your happiness baseline. It’s a very basic view of your personal happiness, but it’s valuable. You pay attention to what happens around you but even more at what happens inside you.

Try Daily Happiness Mapping yourself!

Step 1: Let’s get started collecting your data on the map

  • Print the map
  • At the end of the day answer the three questions on the map: What day of the week and time were? What were you doing? Who were you with? and write down on a sticky note.
  • Splat sticky note on correspondent time of day (i.e. morning, afternoon, evening or night)
  • At the end of next day repeat the exercise. Add sticky notes if there are new habits or put a number (+1) on sticky note if you find the same habits.

Step 2: Retrospective at the end of the week

Look at the map and answer to the questions below:

  • What kind of experiences make me happy?
  • What kind of experiences make me in bad mood?
  • What kind of experiences make me indifferent or neutral mood?
  • What time area is more populated? Why?
  • What mood is more present in a time area? Why?
  • What can I change on my neutral mood sticky notes to improve them towards happy mood? (time, with who, something in the activity)
  • What can I change on my bad mood sticky notes to improve them towards happy mood?
  • Can I remove my bad mood activities from my life? Alternatively can I improve them?

Pay attention to collected data and connect the dots! Ask someone for an external point of view if you need.

More resources toward developing a happiness a habit

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