From this, they built a sample of more than three million data points, orders of magnitude more than previous studies on happiness. So what do three million happiness data tell us?
The activities that make people happiest are sex, exercise, and gardening. People get a big happiness boost from being with a romantic partner or friends, but not from other people, such as colleagues, children or acquaintances. The weather plays only a small part in happiness, except that on extraordinary days, such as above 75 degrees and sunny, people get a big mood boost. People are always happier when they are in nature, especially near water, especially when the scenery is beautiful.
The findings on the data of happiness are, to be honest, obvious. When I told my friends about these studies, the most common response was, “Did we need scientists to tell us this?”
But I would argue that there is depth in the self-evidence of the data on happiness.
Sometimes big data reveals a shocking secret. At other times, big data tells us there is no secret. And such is the case with happiness.
This is crucial to keep in mind for many of us who don’t do the obvious things that make people happy. We fall for traps that the data says are unlikely to make us happy.
Many of us work way too hard at jobs with people we don’t like – not a likely path to happiness. dr. MacKerron and the economist Alex Bryson found that work is the second most miserable occupation; of 40 activities, only being sick in bed makes people less happy than working. The economist Steven Levitt found that when people aren’t sure whether to quit a job, they can be induced to quit. And when they stop, they report more happiness months later.
Many of us move to big cities and spend little time in nature – no path to happiness either. A study by economists Ed Glaeser and Josh Gottlieb ranked the happiness of each American metropolitan area. They found that New York City was just about the least happy. Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco also scored low. The happiest places are Flagstaff, Ariz.; Naples, Florida, and pretty much all of Hawaii. And when people move from unhappy cities to happy places, they report more happiness.