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A GPS for the Soul – Charting and Measuring #Happiness

June 17, 2012

by  of

The study of happiness is a burgeoning field of study around the world, with scientists and other experts providing hard data as to the benefits of a balanced approach to well-being versus too singular a focus on money or self.

“Our goal is to get people thinking more deeply about what happiness is and what is the connection between themselves and their community and world,” says Laura Musikanski, the executive director and co-founder ofThe Happiness Initiative, an organization inspired by Bhutan’s ideas on Gross National Happiness, also known as GNH. They even created a survey geared to measure 10 metrics of well-being, which include material well being, physical health and time balance.

Her site also contains an excellent history of Happiness Research that provides important data-related insight. For example, although ephemeral happiness may come about due to a combination of luck, timing or fate, the emerging science of happiness proposes that “our actions determine 40% of happiness, and that well-being can be both synthetically created and habitually formed.”

This may be the biggest reason for our desire to measure this space, and several takes on measuring it have popped up. The Quantified Self movement has exploded and Nicholas Fenton’s practice of chronicling information for his annual life’s report has inspired others to follow his lead via Daytum and other self-monitoring services. Ariana Huffington also recently announced her GPS for the Soul, an app that launches this June that provides a “course-correcting mechanism for your mind, body and spirit.”

The natural next step in this process, then, is to marry the collective metrics of individuals to form a collective virtual picture of a community or country. Mirroring the goals of GPS for the Soul, it would be simple to map GNH/well-being metrics to existing technology like that provides updates on how to maintain material well-being or Project Noah that encourages more access to nature. Via this methodology, our lives could become a virtual H(app)athon, with technology doling out advice on how to flourish, while proactively helping others.


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