A happiness test worth taking

A happiness test worth taking

Though people have probably pondered happiness as long as we’ve been on the planet, the topic has only recently caught the attention of social scientists. In the emerging field known as “positive psychology,” academics have begun to apply rigorous research techniques to quality-of-life issues, a departure from psychology’s more traditional focus on the negative aspects of human consciousness.

Although the formal study of the qualities that make life worth living began taking shape in the 1990s, Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, Calif., recently announced that it is the first educational institution to offer a doctorate in positive psychology. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (pronounced chick-sent-me-high-ee) heads the program, which stresses serious research and the development of methods that institutions and organizations can use to enrich people’s lives. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi says the program is aimed at collecting data and conceptualizing new ideas that will add meaning, excitement and enthusiasm to the human experience.

To further the field of positive psychology, Dr. Csikszentmihalyi has created research techniques specific to its study. One such technique is the “experience sampling method,” which consists of tracking hundreds of subjects over the course of a week. Researchers page or call the subjects at various times to ask how they are feeling at that moment. The responses are then correlated with the subjects’ activities, companions and physical settings.

Contrary to people’s beliefs about what makes them happy, Dr. Csikzentmihalyi says the sampling method shows the reality of what they’re experiencing. For example, a woman who tells herself that her husband never listens to her may realize that she and her husband have had numerous conversations throughout the week that have made her feel very happy. Or a man who believes he’s positive about his career may see that he really feels just the opposite when a researcher repeatedly pages him at work and he’s forced to admit that he’s frustrated and miserable.

When I suggested to Dr. Csikzentmihalyi that readers may find a do-it-yourself version of his sampling method enlightening, he agreed that it could be a worthwhile experiment. So why not try this simplified self-test to look at your pursuit of happiness?

Do you want to do the happiness test? Click here.