Science: Writing or Blog Can Reveal Whether You're Happy or Not

Posted Jul 25, 2009 by Carol Forsloff
Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth, a couple of scientists, have put together a way to measure happiness. They do it through analyzes of blogs through a remote system and found, as an example, election day to be among the happiest for most people in 4 years.
City Blogger
A woman blogs on her computer in Manhattan
Digital Journal
Measuring large scale happiness was the goal of the scientists who work in the Advanced Computing Center at the University of Vermont. They found through the proliferation of personal online writing, including journals and blogs, a way to measure happiness. Election day was the happiest in four years and the day of Michael Jackson’s death one of the unhappiest. The results are to be published in the Journal of Happiness.
The dream folks have had of being able to measure happiness is initiated on a website that allows the mining of feelings through some 2.3 million blogs, examining sentences that began with "I feel" or "I am feeling." 10 million sentences were gathered for the appraisal.
Sentences received happiness scores based upon the psychological variance scale from 1 to 9, where words like “triumphant” and “paradise” were 8.87 and “hostage” and “suicide 2.2 and 1.25 respectively. The groups most unhappy are young teenagers and very old people when words like “sick” “hate” “stupid” and “mad” are used, which are negative and on the unhappy end of the scale.
CNN had a story not long ago about the importance of happiness which has been found through research to be critical to health and well-being. Happiness is brought about when we are moved by acts of courage, generosity or virtue, whether it’s Nelson Mandela or an airline pilot like Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger whose heroism saved lives. It can also be a wonderful person in your neighborhood who does good things and always has a smile for everyone.
The vagus nerve, or a bundle of nerves at the base of the brain, branches out through the body, linking up key organs and muscles. It acts as a messenger to the central nervous system. When we are happy and act happy, the vagus nerve communicates, promoting a hormone called oxytocin which helps establish feelings of human trust and devotion.
In one study it was found nursing mothers who watched a clip from “The Oprah Winfrey Show” where a musician paid tribute to a teacher who kept him from a life of gangs and violence. Researchers found high levels of oxytocin, which can help cue lactation, and mothers were more likely to nurse and hug their babies as a consequence.
Haidt, an associate professor in social psychology at the University of Virginia, believes human happiness comes not just from something that occurs from the environment, or from within a person, but instead between people, through relationships created by love, work and “something larger than yourself”---like a religious group or volunteer organization. In other words science substantiates that relationships are the keys to happiness.
In 2002 scientists found the happiest people are those connected to others like friends and family. These are people unconcerned about keeping up-to-date with the latest gadgets or competing with others. Instead they become lost in daily life and forgive easily.
Negative thoughts and negative talk can make people feel unhappy. Those who think positive thoughts and act in giving and charitable ways are happier and consequently live longer.
Perhaps that’s news for writers, to feel good, write about things that make other people happy and you'll be happy as well.