Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Increases His Brain Waves By 0.0125 In March 2017

Yes, this is my kitten. Older now but still cute.

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It’s mid-month and that means it’s time to evaluate, and “scientifically” track, our happiness levels!

Reminder: According to my philosophy, I think life is about balance in 3 areas: Relationships, Personal Growth, and Freedom. These areas, for me, all need attention. Additionally, I’ve added the category Health because if you’re not healthy physically and non-physically (mentally, spiritually, etc), it’s hard to be happy.  

If you would ask me if I’m happier right now than I was in mid-February, I’d say yep, slightly. I was happy then and a little more happy now. Gut reaction. And it turns out my self-polling data bears that out. Before I get to the data, it’s worth asking whether or not this is even a valid exercise. I mean, can we trust our own perceptions of happiness?

As it turns out, YES WE CAN.

In Stumbling on Happiness, a book we are going to review later this month, author Dan Gilbert talks about measuring happiness. He contends that self-claims are not only the best way to measure happiness, they are the only way to measure happiness. We can’t get into another person’s head aside from what that person tells us.

Even brain waves, which are literally inside a person’s head, are simply echoes of self-claims, because the only reason we know a certain brain wave = happiness is because the person with the brain claimed to be happy while the wave was active.

Ergo, here are my own completely valid measurements:

An increase of 0.0125! Can’t really make smileys to reflect that slight difference.

I think 4 is my baseline, so this is good. Here are some highlights from each category …


  • Family. Steady at 4.5. The kids have been challenging, but that’s nothing new — they are 5-year old boy noisy tornadoes. But, they are playing together outside a lot, which I love to see. And, I’ve had fun lunches with Mrs. Rich.
  • Friends. Down from 5 to 4 because last month my best friend was visiting. Can’t top that.


  • Work. When we move back to the States, I’ll be transitioning to a new position in my company. While there’s still uncertainty about what that will look like, I’m feeling more content about my upcoming opportunities.
  • Hobbies. The blog! A few months ago I was in search of a hobby, and writing for the blog was just what the happiness doctor ordered. Actually now I find I don’t have enough time for my hobbies. All good.
Rich enjoys a solo lunch by the beach
Life near the ocean …


  • Experiences. We continue to take advantage of living overseas. One of our favorite activities is exploring all the beaches in the area.
  • Recreation. Fun meals out with the kids, with Mrs. Rich, and even a lunch by myself.


On the bright side, I now have a brand new tooth crown made of Zirconium, so I should be done with the dentist for a while.

  • Non-physical. My mental and spiritual health feel strong, although Penny you may disagree :). We have a big trip coming up, and it helps to have something to look forward to.  

When I look over these categories, it strikes me that daily life is the combination of a lot of little, often mundane moments. But if we understand why we’ve structured our lives the way we have, we can appreciate how we’re living.

Click image to watch on Amazon …

Finally, I want to mention what’s not on this list: material things. Mrs. Rich and I recently watched a documentary called Minimalism, and it was all about people getting out of the rat race and not buying so many things and all that. It was entertaining and thought provoking, and made us consider where we are on the scale of minimalism. 

I wouldn’t call us minimalists, but we’re not materialists either. I’m certainly not a Selfish Materialistic Hedonist! Maybe because I studied Theology, I’ve long been aware of the pitfalls of materialism. Now I’m starting to get the sense that “minimalism” is becoming … trendy. I mean, do you know a lot of people who still think more stuff will make them happy?  

What about you Penny — how are those bangs working out, and how was your 40th birthday?   




15 Replies to “Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Increases His Brain Waves By 0.0125 In March 2017”

  1. I agree with minimalism becoming trendy as well! I never like it when that happens. It starts as something good, but whenever everyone else starts doing it, it becomes kind of lame. I was brewing kombucha ten years ago, and now everybody is doing it. Words that used to mean something, like “sustainable” and “free-range”, have now become buzz words and make me groan every time I see them. And I used to really like owls, like, the decorative kind that you’d see on fabrics and stuff. But now owls are freaking everywhere. Owls used to be my thing. But now, they are everybody’s.

    Does that mean I should like any of these things any less? Because they’re popular? Do I base my opinions on what to like and not like based on what other people are liking and not liking (and doing the exact opposite)? And isn’t that kind of a modality in and of itself?

    It’s like that with baby naming too. Remember that part in Freakonomoics, where we think we are being original and unique in the name we are giving our child, only to find that it peaks in popularity a couple years later?

    We can’t escape the zeitgeist, even when we think that we are.

    Stupid trendy minimalism…
    Penny @ recently posted…Monthly Happiness Report: Rich Increases His Brain Waves By 0.0125 In March 2017My Profile

  2. We recently watched the minimalist document as well. I thought it was pretty good, but kind of felt like they were just bringing something into the mainstream that many of us have known about for some time. I guess that’s good, we’ll see if it’s a fad or a real trend. Nothing like an economic boom to help everyone forget about things like minimalism.

    I have to believe that living near the ocean puts a floor on your happiness quotient. Probably next to impossible to drop below a 4 😉
    Max Your Freedom recently posted…Net Worth: It’s not the Size that MattersMy Profile

    1. The key for me isn’t minimalism as much as intentionality, i.e. buying things thoughtfully. It doesn’t bother me if someone wants to buy a daily latte or the complete works of John Grisham if it helps them through their day. Just don’t do it for no reason and don’t do it if you’re broke.

      And I completely agree — living near the beach is a huge boost to happiness! We always have an excuse to get outside. Thanks Max
      Rich @ recently posted…Are Stocks In A Bubble? And Why Do Engineers Retire Early? — Rich’s RamblingsMy Profile

  3. Glad you’ve had a good Feb/March Rich! I really need to try this method of self-reflection.

    Good luck as you plan your repatriation. I’ve done it once myself and know from experience that it can be tough. I think the fact that you will be moving on to a new role in our company is a very good thing. When I returned from my first assignment (with a previous employer) I returned to the same job I had 1.5 years previously. It felt very much like I had taken a step back and that my company didn’t put much value in what I had accomplished. This ultimately led me to go on the hunt for a new job with a new company and was one of the key inflection points in our lives.

  4. In total, we’ve been expats for almost 9 years! First assignment was back in 2003-04 in the UK. Then back to the US for 6 years. Then to Asia for 3 years. Then a new country in Asia for the last 4 years. We expect to be here until the summer of 2019.

    I think your desire to continue the expat experience is fairly common. Most people we know typically would prefer to extend their assignments vs going home. It has been an enriching and life changing experience for us. We probably would want to keep going indefinitely if it weren’t for a desire to be closer to our aging parents and our kids when they go to college.

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