I love taking surveys, personality tests and opinion polls. So when I discovered the website for authentic happiness, www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu, I felt happy even before I dove into the site’s multiple questionnaires. There are nineteen in all, divided into categories that measure my emotions, engagement, life satisfaction, flourishing and meaning. The questionnaires measure how happy I am, and my results become part of the growing data base that informs University of Pennsylvania’s emerging work in Positive Psychology. So while I am measuring my own happiness, I am doing good, which made me happier. I anticipated scores rocketing off the charts.
Completing nineteen questionnaires in one sitting would be like gorging an entire chocolate cake or spooning a half gallon of ice cream straight from the carton – too much of a good thing. So I limited myself to the first category: Emotions. I inventoried my authentic happiness, determined my general happiness scale, and delved into academic sounding stuff like PANAS (positive and negative affect), CES-D (depression symptoms), and Fordyce Emotions (current happiness). My emotions verged on giddy at the prospect of such fun questionnaires.
So, how did I do? Is my happiness euphoric?
The results of the questionnaires landed me in a more realistic place: happy enough but hardly dizzy. I am overall 3.5 out of 5 happy, 7 out of 10 happy in the moment, 5 out of 7 over the long haul, with a 76% positive affect and 22% disposition toward depression. Turning happiness into hard data deflated me, but outlined a fair presentation of a generally happy person who grapples with depression for statically significant, though not overwhelming, periods of time.
What’s interesting is how I stack up against other people. Isn’t that the dirt we all want to know? Authentic Happiness reported my results in comparison to others my age, gender, and profession. Although I may be happy enough, I’m not so happy when compared with my peers. I tip the 50th percentile happy compared to other men and middle-aged people, but am less happy than the average retired person. It’s nice to know that people get happier when they retire. Since I am new at it, maybe the longer I’m retired the happier I will become. One must always strive.
The website also compared me with other computer users. Perhaps this is because I took the tests online. I scored much happier than most computer users. I don’t know how the correlation works. Does being on the computer makes people less happy or do less happy people spend more time on the computer? Either way, the takeaway of this game for me is: the key to happiness lies in being retired without spending too much time online.
Take the test yourself and see if you are as happy as you seem.