We are living in a world of the quantified self, trying to measure every aspect of our lives. How many steps did I do today? What was my sleep score? How many calories did I consume today? The sole aim of this data and algorithmic driven pursuit is to achieve the pinnacle of happiness. So, can we measure and track happiness? The World Happiness Report measures and ranks it by country. Finland is the “happiest country in the world”. What about individuals like you and me? There are a few tests to measure happiness or subjective well-being. I decided to try one from the University of Pennsylvania. It’s called the Authentic Happiness Inventory score. Mine was 3.08 out of 5. What does that mean? Am I unhappy? Am I marginally happy? Usually, a sixtieth percentile score is not good. While pondering this dilemma, I came across an article written by Arthur Brooks, a Harvard Professor. He has developed three equations for happiness.
Equation 1 : Subjective Well Being = Genes + Circumstances + Habits Equation 2: Habits = Faith + Family +Friends + Work Equation 3 : Satisfaction = What you have / What you want
Could I use these equations to build a happiness score?
Equation 1 : Subjective Well Being = Genes + Circumstances + Habits
Research has shown that genes have a 44% to 52% impact on your well being. This means your genetic profile determines your “baseline” well-being. Life’s ups and downs will change that, but finally, you will revert to your baseline. In short, you cannot control this variable. What about Circumstances? The environment affects baseline well-being — how much, is the big debate. Human beings are born with the ability to adapt to the good or the bad. It is a survival instinct. Think of anything new in your life. Now think of how long the joy lasted before the novelty wore off. There is a positive surge in happiness. It comes down to the baseline as time passes. The adage — “time heals all wounds” has its basis in this same survival instinct. A bereavement results in a downward spiral. The passage of time pulls you back up to your baseline. Although Genetics and Circumstances are out of your control, Habits, and Satisfaction are within your grasp.
Equation 2: Habits= Faith + Friends + Family + Work.
The question that popped up in my mind was — How do I attribute values to these variables? Is it even correct to try and define numerical values? Instead of using numbers, can I use a fuel gauge equivalence? How about a Happiness Gauge?