Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Track your happiness

All of us want happiness. Up to now, there have been a lot of studies that look at what factors make us happy, and it has become apparent that happiness has a lot to do with our moment-to-moment experience. However, this is difficult to study. Matthew Killingsworth from Harvard University found a way of studying moment-to-moment happiness. In a TED Talk, he explains how.

He uses smart phones to track people’s happiness throughout the day. Participants can register at and will receive signals at random points throughout the day be asked questions on their moment-to-moment experience in the instant just before the signal. The purpose is to figure out which of the factors we encounter throughout the day have an impact on our moment-to-moment experience, such as the people we are with, the activities we engage in, and so on. Matt Killingsworth already has a hug sample of over 650,000 real-time reports from over 15,000 people from all over the world. Registration is free, and registered participants can track their own happiness.

One of his key findings is that being in the moment seems to make us happy. We are less happy when we let our minds wander, even when we are in the middle of an unpleasant activity such as being stuck in a traffic jam. But still, we let our minds wander almost 50% of the time on average. This study has also been published in the magazine Science.

If being in the present is so important for our happiness, what can we do in order to let our minds wander less? Mindfulness is the key here. Meditation, for example, is very helpful in improving one’s mindfulness and thus in increasing the number of positive emotions, as we reported in our post “How meditation can improve the quality of life”. Also, so-called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programmes are becoming increasingly popular and are offered in many cities. So there are many ways of improving our mindfulness – and if you like, keep track of your happiness by using And we would be happy about your sharing of experiences, either by leaving a comment or via email to cute.scienceblog (at) or via our Facebook page.


  1. I registered for yesterday. Completing the questionnaire was easy and did not take longer than 10 minutes. After completing the questionnaire, you can set your usual wakeup and bed times and how many signals to complete the survey per day you want to receive. I did not change the initial setting, which was three messages per day.

    I already completed three surveys. They don't take long and are easy to complete. The user interface could be slightly more optimised for the use on a mobile phone, but apart from that, it really works well. I'll try to post what results I got in two or three weeks.

    If anyone else registered for the programme, please share!

  2. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative article.

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  3. Thank you so much for this comment, Mark. It's a great motivator to keep writing something every week!