I tracked my mood for 700+ days on a scale of one to ten. Here are the results.
For a better experience, please check this page on a computer. Thank you.
Thank you for your interest in this article. Let me ask you a question.
How was your day?
Starting on January 1, 2021, I asked myself that question everyday before going to bed, and I answered in the form of a score (on a scale of 1 to 10) and a brief description of my activities during the day. After two years doing that repeatedly, not only have I become much more self-aware, but I have gathered enough data to draw a few interesting conclusions. In the following paragraphs, I’ll share with you what I find to be the most insightful lessons I got from this experiment.
Before diving into the learnings, I should stress that the entirety of this exercise is subjective, and relative to my own sense of self. Not every person would experience and interpret life’s events in the same way I would. That said, I’m reasonably confident these insights can be extrapolated to other people. Simply be aware of my biases and adapt these ideas to your particular situation.
In my best days (8+)…
👨👩👧👦 I have meaningful social connection
🎯 I make progress towards my goals
💪 I face challenges courageously
🧠 I learn and expand my knowledge
🎁 Other people make my life better
🙌 I help others in the ways I can
✨ I get lucky, or serendipity occurs
🚲 I travel or visit a new place
🤭 I experience something new
🏃♂️ I sustain healthy habits
🏋️♂️ I feel energetic and strong
🌳 I spend time in nature, esp. with good weather
🤗 I feel grateful
🎸 I listen to music, esp. live
🍆 I have sex
🤣 I play and laugh
In my worst days (5-)…
🤧 I experiment bad health
🤔 Expectations are not met
🔨 I work too much, esp. on drudgery
🌆 The environment drags me down
💔 Other people make my life worse
🚪 I don’t get out of the house, no sunlight or fresh air
📳 I use technology too much, esp. social media
🤯 I feel saturated after too much input
💸 I struggle financially and experiment anxiety
🤷♂️ My goals aren’t clear and I’m unproductive
🤹♂️ I spread myself too thin and I make little progress
💥 Bad luck, accidents or mistakes occur
👥 I feel lonely, but don’t reach out to friends
🎭 I get fixated on my problems (victim mindset)
👊 I’m too hard on myself
😒 I compare myself to others
As you can see, the ideas above are anything but new. Your experience will differ slightly depending on your habits, circumstances, personality… but I’m reasonably confident that you’ll find similar elements in your life.
In all transparency, my original intention was to look at my journals through scientific lens and create this mega-article with extensive conclusions, cool anecdotes, charts… But I was overwhelmed by this scope and decided to publish it as is. If you were interested in actual scientific studies on the subject, check The Happiness Lab Podcast, or Robert Waldinger’s longitudinal study on life satisfaction.
Is it possible to journal too much?
There’s a saying in the world of personal finance: «Life is lived outside the spreadsheet». This refers to the tendency of investors to obsess over their portfolio’s performance in a way that prevents them from living in the present.
Well, turns out that applies to journaling as well. Yes, there’s such a thing as journaling too much.
Don’t get me wrong: if you have never done much written self-reflection, I think it’s an extremely valuable practice. Journaling has helped me become incredibly self-aware, leading me to illuminating insights and identify recurring patterns. But for those who already know themselves well enough, this exercise can end up backfiring.
The main problem with journaling every day is that a day is too small a unit to be worth reflecting upon. There’s only so many wins you can accomplish on any given day. In this sense, a daily journal is not necessarily a good measure of real progress, which usually happens over longer periods of time. I’d say quite the contrary, journaling daily forces you to focus on the immediate past, often things that happen to you, instead of the long-lasting things that you build. This can prevent you from playing an active role in your life.
If you set out to journal anyway, I’d recommend doing so writing a gratitude journal, checking in over longer periods of time (monthly works well for me), or focusing on specific areas of your life. You can also consider giving your thoughts some structure and sharing your output publicly. That way you’ll help others and potentially rip some rewards in the process.
To be continued…
Because you know what?
In the best days, I didn’t feel like journaling.
Discuss with friends. Act out your thoughts in the real world. In the good days, I don’t feel like journaling, but living.
However, for those ones hungry for some pithy insights, these are some of the things I’ve learned.
Thank you Sonia Dheer
Curious about what happened to me in these two years? Visit /life.
- How good could you become if you stacked your best mood (short-term) with your best personality (long-term behaviour) with the best environment?
- Health alone won’t make you happy, but you won’t be happy without being healthy
- Other people will be at the core of the best and the worst days of your life
- Growing as a person doesn’t necessarily feel good in the short term
- Breaking the routine often results in memorable days, but it’s not sustainable in the long-term
- Avoid basing your well-being on constant spikes
- Your 6-day might be other persons’s 10
- A high average with ocassional great days is as good as it gets
- Days with extreme scores are the most informative
- Most days are good (count them). Most bad days don’t last long.
- Changing to a more favorable environment is helpful, but that alone won’t fix your life
- Happiness = Reality – Expectations
- Happiness is a choice.