February 15, 2020
Are you happy most of the time, with temporary intervals of unhappiness? Or are you unhappy most of the time, with temporary intervals of happiness?
This question has been hard for me to answer. When I’m in a good mood, it’s hard to remember what it felt like to be in a bad mood. And when I’m in a bad mood, it’s hard to remember what it felt like to be in a good mood. Am I just grouchy? Or am I more fundamentally unhappy?
Then I came across the idea of doing a year in pixels, where you write down how you feel each day and then visualize it at the end of the year. Daily journaling isn’t exactly new, but I liked the mix of touchy-feeliness, data visualization, art, and computer science.
Here’s my 2019 in pixels:
And here are the numbers:
I was honestly a little relieved by this. I tend to be pretty cantankerous, and I know I can focus on what I don’t like rather than on what’s going well. So before I started this, I often asked myself whether I was somehow fundamentally unhappy. It was good to see some proof that I’m usually in a pretty good mood.
I can also tell you some fun facts:
I used an app called Daylio to track this data each day. Part of me was hoping for some digital epiphany like “days when you bike to work are 25% happier than days you drive to work”, but I ended up not really needing that. By forcing myself to answer the question “how do you feel?” every day, I started noticing these patterns myself.
I don’t think any of this is super insightful, but asking myself how I felt also made me ask other questions: why do I feel that way? Where are these feelings coming from?
I recognized that it’s hard for me to qualify a day as “really good” in the same way that I rate very few movies a 5/5. But for a day to qualify as a grouchy day, I only need to feel grouchy for a few minutes. So it’s easier for a day to be “downgraded” than to be upgraded.
I also found that a lot of my happiness comes from internal sources, being proud of myself, having a productive day, that kind of thing. But a lot of my unhappiness comes from external sources, or how other people feel. A lot of my bad days were actually other people having bad days.
This was not very healthy, so I made some changes, both big and small, around September. The improvement is pretty obvious, and I’m carrying that forward in 2020.
This is a little personal, so I wasn’t sure about posting this. But the mix of touchy-feeliness, data visualization, art, and computer science is pretty on-brand for this site. I’ve said before that programming is more about feelings than you might expect, and I have a goal of making Happy Coding more mine this year, so posting this seemed right.
I believe that technology can improve our lives, and I think this is a good example. Zombies Run is another one, but I’ll leave that for a different day.
Do you have other examples of ways that technology has helped you? Have you created your own year in pixels? I’d love to hear about it!