The question of “How are you feeling today?” is one asked by professionals of a wide variety of fields, not just those in the mental health professions. Regardless of who is asking the question, it seems, people tend to answer with some degree of dishonesty, whether intentional or not. Those who are not feeling very well at all may answer that they’re fine to avoid a discussion, or those who are in fact feeling great may respond in the negative if concentrating on a short and isolated event. The difficulty of gathering reliable data about the given happiness levels of people has been a significant challenge in mental health research for decades, but a new study based at the University of Vermont and slated for publication in the upcoming issue of the Journal of Happiness Studies may have found a dependable way to get a straight answer.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the research team turned to the internet for its opening into the thoughts and feelings of people on a regular and possibly more honest basis than in-person interactions. As extraordinary numbers of people around the world frequently express their feelings and ideas on blogs and other personal publications, the team worked to gather information from feelings noted as people openly wrote online. Gathering a multitude of statements beginning with “I feel,” or “I am feeling,” the team ran sentences through a filter pairing certain words with different happiness scores, based on past academic study.
While the method may have a great deal of work ahead in order to refine its ability to see into the moods and minds of people online, it has so far been able to report that last fall’s Election Day was the happiest day on the internet in a period of four years. As the research into human happiness continues, it’s hoped this trend will continue upward.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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