Spread a little happiness

Today is World Smile Day! Our guest author tells us about the "Smile for Vilnius" initiative 

When you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you. This motto made famous when sung by Louis Armstrong captures the spirit behind the Happy barometer and social campaign "Smile for Vilnius".  Why Vilnius? Lithuania is known as one of the unhappiest countries according to international surveys on happiness. So it was interesting for us to make a social project that would not only measure happiness, but also spread it and encourage people to smile more.

There are other worldwide happiness indexes but these surveys are carried out only once per year, despite the fact people’s moods change every day. The measurement of happiness is going towards complexity and introducing more criteria for measurement, such as usage of antidepressants, alcohol, etc. Our aim, however, is not to build a scientific research platform but to measure how people feel in the moment, so for us simplicity is one of the main priorities of the project.

Launched in July this year, the Happy Barometer invites people to rate their happiness level on a zero-to-ten scale on an hourly basis, as well as specify their location in the world. The Happy Barometer idea is based on a few simple assumptions: first of all, people’s moods change more often than once per year, so they should be measured constantly. People’s level of happiness also depends on where they live. In each country you will find more or less attractive places, which is why we measure happiness at city, not national, level. The last assumption is that only individuals can tell how happy they are. So the best way to know is to ask them.

One month after it was launched, people from other cities of the world started to use the Happy Barometer to express their feelings. Currently more than 60 cities world-wide are included in the system. The aim is to encourage people around the world to smile more and to share positive emotions. Cities also have the possibility to interact with their citizens. This is the case with Vilnius, capital of Lithuania. Vilnius joined the Happy Barometer project with the social campaign "Smile for Vilnius" and now uses outdoor digital displays to broadcast the real-time happiness level of people in the city.

We expect to have interesting data about happiness in major cities world-wide in the months to come. This data will allow us to look for some correlations between the weather and happiness or any big event and its effect on the mood of different cities.

The idea of a very simple measurement system of happiness came to our minds after launching an interactive audience engagement system, IQ Polls. After the successful launch of the Happy Barometer website we plan to develop the iOS Happy Barometer application in mid-October with personal data features. People will be able to  track how they feel over time and build the history of their evolving mood changes. A psychiatrist brought to us this idea of tracking personal mood changes. Perhaps knowing what made you happy in the past will make you happy again.


Arturas Jonkus is the co-founder of IQ Polls.

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