Monday, December 28, 2015

The Happiness Experiment

Michael Salsbury
During a talk by Harvard University researcher Shawn Achor, you can increase happiness and reduce pain levels by taking the time each day for six weeks to acknowledge and express your gratitude for something different (than previous days).  The claim was that a study showed patients with chronic pain reduced their need for pain medications by 50%. It was also claimed that your happiness would increase as well.  Since fibromyalgia makes me no stranger to pain, and a natural predisposition toward unhappiness makes me familiar with its impact on life, I decided to try an experiment to prove or disprove whether Achor's idea holds true for me personally.

The theory we're evaluating here is the claim that expressing gratitude daily for six weeks will reduce overall pain levels significantly and increase overall happiness.

Here's how this experiment's going to work:

  • Every day for the next six weeks, I'll express my gratitude for something new or different.
  • Each expression of gratitude must be something I'm genuinely thankful for or appreciative of, and will not be something invented just for the sake of meeting the requirement.
  • Each expression of gratitude will either occur publicly here on this blog, face to face with the individual inspiring it, or verbally in front of others who can hear that expression.  
Here's how the results will be evaluated:
  • Each Sunday, I'll take the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, which attempts to measure your happiness level on a scale of 1 (not happy) through 6 (too happy).  The average person scores a four on this test.
  • Each day, I'll evaluate my highest level of physical pain on a scale of 0 (no recognizable pain) to 10 (extreme pain, similar to a broken bone or other injury).  These scores will be averaged over the week and recorded.  Scores resulting from physical exertion, illness, or injury will be recorded but excluded from the results.
  • At the end of the six week period (February 7, 2016) and for at least two weeks afterward, I'll track the happiness and pain scores to see if they change once the experiment stops.
Today's baseline:
  • OHQ Score:  2.34 (somewhat unhappy)
  • Max Pain Level for today:  6
Interestingly, the site on which I found the test suggests that I start a gratitude journal to increase my happiness.  It will be interesting to see where we are in February.

About the Author

Michael Salsbury / Author & Editor

In his day job, Michael Salsbury helps administer over 1,800 Windows desktop computers for a Central Ohio non-profit. When he's not working, he's writing, blogging, podcasting, home brewing, or playing "warm furniture" to his two Bengal cats.


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