CE Insight: What Makes Us Happy?
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Have you heard of Mappiness? It is a study by George MacKerron and Susana Mourato.
It tracked 3 million happiness measures from more than 60,000 people to create the most complete picture of happiness humans have ever created.
The Mappiness study asked people what they were doing, who they were with, and how happy they felt while doing various everyday activities.
(Quick note: I will wax a bit on happiness later on as I think it's important to reflect on happiness.)
Below is the full list of tasks and the gain in happiness people experienced vs. not doing the activity.
Remember, this list is generalized over 60,000 people, you might find some of the lower items make you happier than others.
Activities That Make Us Happy
- Intimacy/Making Love 14.2
- Theatre/Dance/Concert 9.29
- Exhibition/Museum/Library 8.77
- Sports/Running/Exercise 8.12
- Gardening 7.83
- Singing/Performing 6.95
- Talking/Chatting/Socialising 6.38
- Birdwatching/Nature Watching 6.28
- Walking/Hiking 6.18
- Hunting/Fishing 5.82
- Drinking Alcohol 5.73
- Hobbies/Arts/Crafts 5.53
- Meditating/Religious Activities 4.95
- Match/Sporting Event 4.39
- Childcare/Playing with Children 4.1
- Pet Care/Playing with Pets 3.63
- Listening to Music 3.56
- Other Games/Puzzles 3.07
- Shopping/Errands 2.74
- Gambling/Betting 2.62
- Watching TV/Film 2.55
- Computer Games/iPhone Games 2.39
- Eating/Snacking 2.38
- Cooking/Preparing Food 2.14
- Drinking Tea/Coffee 1.83
- Reading 1.47
- Listing to Speech/Podcast 1.41
- Washing/Dressing/Grooming 1.18
- Sleeping/Resting/Relaxing 1.08
- Smoking 0.69
- Browsing the Internet 0.59
- Texting/Email/Social media 0.56
- Housework/Chores/DIY −0.65
- Traveling/Commuting −1.47
- In a Meeting, Seminar, Class −1.5
- Admin/Finances/Organising −2.45
- Waiting/Queueing −3.51
- Care or Help for Adults −4.3
- Working/Studying −5.43
- Sick in Bed −20.4
Taking a close look at what we do most often or every day as a culture, and how low the happiness score for those activities is vs. other things we COULD be doing more often is quite revealing.
Social media has a low score, yet we spend so much time on it culturally. Yet being in nature or gardening is high up, yet we barely do that.
Kids these days spend almost all their time inside and on their phones... and we're also seeing record levels of kids struggling with mental illness and depression. Worth looking at more deeply.
Exercise is also high on the list, yet on average we get so little of that and it seems like a chore to most of us.
To go a bit deeper, here is what Mappiness determined is the gain in happiness from being with different people compared to being alone:
The People That Make Us Happy
- Romantic partner 4.51
- Friends 4.38
- Other family members 0.75
- Clients, customers 0.43
- Children 0.27
- Colleagues, classmates −0.29
- Other people participant knows −0.83
There are a lot of ways to interpret these particular numbers. I'm not sure what to make of folks not feeling too much difference being alone vs their kids...
I also often wonder: would we be answering differently if our culture was healthier overall? What would we say if generally, people loved each other more? Were nicer to each other? Weren't putting on a mask to impress each other?
In essence, I think these responses match our current culture, but perhaps not our potential.
It seems the more things we do high up on the list, the more we will experience happiness. I know sometimes for me it can be that simple, but at the same time what is behind happiness? Meaning, when we are not happy or sad, what are we?
I remember first starting CE back in 2009, positivity and happiness were HUGE buzzwords.
There were a million ways to experience either, but there was toxicity in the ways people were constantly chasing positivity and happiness.
I found it much more useful to focus on fundamental well-being. A feeling deep down, that we experience quite regularly throughout each day, that feels calm, peaceful, and that everything is OK.
A feeling birthed within our body and being, not necessarily through what is happening externally. This happens to be the state of a healthy and well-regulated nervous system as well.
Happiness is defined differently by people. I do feel it enriches our experience of life.
In some definitions, it is a fleeting emotion birthed from experiences, and it can't be there ALL the time because it is an emotion.
This is why I feel it's important to also focus less on the external means that make us happy, and more on the internal fundamental well-being that comes from presence.
With that state as our background, the availability of happiness from our external experiences also increases, and we won't get caught up in the chase. This is freedom in my eyes.
Maybe for the next week, see what it feels like to try out things high up on this list as much as you are able, while doing things lower on the list less if you're able.
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