2020 – anxious, yes, but no less happy

Every day throughout 2020 I asked myself three questions about my happiness. I’d rate out of 10 how much happiness I felt on a given day, my levels of anxiety, and whether the day felt worthwhile.

Since we’re now firmly in to 2021 I’m looking back on my scores for 2020. I wasn’t quite as unhappy as I had expected. Plus, I now have a few ideas about how to improve my happiness for the year ahead.

My happiness was up and down (as is typical for most humans and nothing to be alarmed about – sometimes bad days happen and it is OK), and so the graph shows my happiness as a moving average. It helps me to see when I struggled and/or thrived and understand the bigger currents that were happening in my life.

A few surprises

What has surprised me the most is the stability of how happy and worthwhile my days felt throughout 2020. That was testament to the relationships I have in my life. It was my anxiety that took a hit.

Compared to the start of the year my anxiety got a lot higher in March. Understandably. My own situation was precarious but like many people I was paying a lot of attention to the news – trying to make sense of what was happening and searching for some clarity about the future. There were a few days when I was verging on sheer panic. I feast less on the news now and that helps.

It wasn’t until I found myself a permanent home in July that my anxiety started coming down. What a relief that was. I found a great little spot with good access to some decent hills. And to boot I finally took the plunge and moved in with a long-term love.

You might even say things were better than had 2020 not been dominated by a major health pandemic. But then the woman I moved in with broke her arm and it was back to feeling anxious and my days felt a little less happy and a little less worthwhile too. We got through it and we learnt a lot about one another in the process. All things considered the year ended well.

Tracking happiness for more than 3 years

I’ve been tracking my happiness for more than 3 years now. And doing so has helped me bring more happiness to my days – I better understand what is important and what is not. You should try it too.

It all began when I set off on an ambitious cycle journey after years of building up a career researching happiness. In that career I was quite unhappy. I wanted to start applying my research to me daily life and as I cycled to the happiness capital of the world, I began asking myself how happy I was each day.

My average daily happiness for the last 3 years
HappinessAnxietyWorthwhileness
2018 6.93.98.4
2019 7.82.89.0
20207.62.48.9

What’s more surprising when I look at my happiness in 2020 is that is only a lit bit lower than in 2019. And 2019 is down as being one of the best years of my life. Throughout 2018 as I cycled to Bhutan my happiness was even lower still, but on that journey I figured out some things that have helped me be happier ever since. I’ve written a book about that journey and I’ll have that published soon (sign up for book updates here).

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