Effect of happiness self-monitoring using the Happiness Indicator

Arnold Bakker, Martijn Burger, Pieter van Haren, Wido Oerlemans and Ruut Veenhoven
EHERO working paper 2015-1


The Happiness Indicator (www.happinessindicator.nl) is an online tool designed to make people more aware of their own happiness. Participants periodically record how happy they feel on the present day and how happy they have felt over the past month, using the Happiness Comparer. They also have the option of indicating in the Happiness Diary how happy they felt during the various activities of the previous day. Participants receive feedback in the form of a comparison with their earlier scores and with the average scores of similar participants. The theory behind the website is that a keener awareness of one's own happiness helps users find an optimal lifestyle and consequently promotes happiness among participants. The website has been online since January 2011; 5,411 participants have participated at least twice, and 64% of them used the Happiness Diary one or more times. These numbers are now high enough to permit an initial analysis of the effect of the use of the Happiness Indicator on the participants' happiness. We find that the use of the Happiness Comparer only marginally increases happiness. The effect of using the Happiness Diary turns out to be stronger. Using the Happiness Diary 10 times results in an average increase in happiness of 2%. This 2% increase in happiness can be compared to the effects of an increase of € 600 in annual income. In addition, we find that repeated use of the Happiness Diary had a particularly strong effect for those who felt less happy when they first used the Happiness Indicator.

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