Me — Daily Happiness Tracker

So, I’ve been using a happiness tracker that a guy named Hugo started, as it is not just a pile of data (like most other ones I’ve used), but rather it turns that data into graphs and helps visualize your life in ways you can understand and digest. I’m not going to explain how it works, as you can just use that link to read up on his (very long) blog post. Instead, I’m going to talk about what I’ve learned from it.

First things first, when you rate how good a day was on a scale of 1-10, I’ve noticed that it tends to be a bell curve. For me, my average day is a 7. I’ve had multiple conversations with people trying to explain why the average is 7 and not 5, but honestly it boils down to semantics, I guess, except that the American education system says that 70%, a C, is an average score.

Most of my days are 7s, with a good number of 6.5s and 7.5s. I realized that I had actually been doing a great job, all things considered. I’ve been keeping track of my numbers since March, and while I had good days and bad days, things tended to be pretty consistent, and it got easy to predict how good my day would be based on the things that I did.

But then, everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked. Three weeks ago, my daily average went from ~7.3 all the way down to 5.8. The last time my depression had been this bad was at the end of January, and I had spent all the time in between building my stability back up. I felt like all that work had been thrown at the window.

Happiness Chart

You can clearly see things drastically change near the second week of June.

It’s still affecting me in very obvious ways, and I won’t pretend things are different, but this time around I tried to take action immediately. I do not want to spend another six months using excessive busy work as a coping mechanism again. So, I reached out to a few people, and with the help of some sage advice, some personal daily routine changes, and a little bit of providence in the form of that dream I mentioned a bit ago all came together to put me back on track. My daily average is roughly 6.7 at the moment, so I’m already about halfway back to where I used to be a month ago, despite even more trials life has been throwing my way in the meantime.

The worst part about my depression is that when it’s at its worst, I feel like it’s the only thing I ever talk about, and the same is true whether I’m writing blog posts or talking to friends, or even in my own headspace—it’s almost inescapable.

But this chart—this chart shows me that I did a great job bouncing back. I feel like all of those good days since “the fall” were exceptions to the rule, and not the standard, but hey, if I can make a habit of what feels like abnormally good days, even if those days were the standard when I was better, I’m clearly making progress.

Me — Quick Maths

I love stats and data, as you probably know by now, but I’m starting to realize just how intrinsic it’s become to my personality. I do quick math in my head just as idle thoughts.

And before you think that I’m saying this to sound smart, it really is very simple, stupid math. Yesterday my work just got an order of a bunch of postcards, and I had to transport them. So in the few minutes it took me to do that, I did the math: 17 boxes, each box has 5 stacks of 100 postcards each. 8500 postcards. Sometimes I’ll do the math differently just to see which way is fastest. Disregarding the 100 because it’s just adding zeroes, is it faster to multiply 10×5 and 7×5 and add them together? What about multiplying 3 stacks of 5 by five, with 2 remainder? (In other words, 3x[5×5] + 2×5).

My production manager has started asking me “What’s A times B?” and I’ll do the math real quick while I’m doing whatever.

The weird thing is that I don’t consider myself to like math. The class I hated the most in high school was physics, because I would plug in all the numbers into the equations and I would still get the wrong answer. It’s worth pointing out that I didn’t have the best teacher, but nonetheless. I also probably would have hated calculus even more, but I never took it.

The trouble with higher maths, for me at least, is that it becomes too abstract too quickly, and the visualizations and the datas start to turn into meaningless numbers. I don’t like doing pointless things, so if I don’t know what foiling polynomials does, what am I really learning?

I think math is at its best when it helps you better understand things that you couldn’t have figured out with standard observations. I can know that most established authors are far older than I am, but I can’t appreciate that until I gather data on all my favorite writers and calculate the average age of when they were first published (32.9 years old, by the way). And that math is easy! You just add up all the numbers and divide by how many numbers there were! Now I can do something with that information—like breathe, because by that standard I’ve got quite some time to figure myself out and get published.

I’m always confused when people don’t share my love for data. It’s just cool to see and understand the world better through objective means, how can you not appreciate that? As somebody whose entire goal in life hinges on my capacity to know and understand, data gives a very simple and tangible way of doing so.

A post hit my Reddit feed (from r/dataisbeautiful, as it were) of somebody’s heart rate as their significant other left the country. They calculated what moments correlated with which spikes, and as I’m looking at it I’m nodding my head, thinking yeah, I totally understand that feeling of seeing somebody for the last time. That rush of “Oh, no”, is your heartrate spiking to an intense degree, so just reading this and comparing it to the rest of the graph is really interesting to me.

How can anyone not love data?