What happened?

Over 26,000 people signed up for the project. We will submit a full report describing the project to a scientific journal soon, but here are some initial results.

In one part of the study participants were randomly assigned to one of five groups. People in each group watched a video describing one of four techniques commonly used to boost happiness – expressing gratitude, smiling, recalling a pleasant event from the day before and carrying out an act of kindness. Those in the fifth ‘control’ group were simply asked to think about what had happened the day before. This latter group was very important, because it helped assess the degree to which any reported changes in happiness were due to a placebo effect.

Participants were asked to carry out their assigned technique during each day of the study and report any changes in their happiness at the end of the project.

All of the techniques, including the control, resulted a rise in reported happiness. However, participants who had been asked to think about one positive thing that had happened the day before reported the greatest increase. Compared to those in the control group, this procedure provided an additional 15% boost in happiness.

In another part of the project the research team commissioned two national surveys (one before and one after the study), asking a representative sample of around 2000 people to rate how cheerful they felt. This is part of a larger study designed to track the nation’s mood over time. Around 50% of the population described themselves as cheerful, and about 30% of people as uncheerful (20% were undecided). Interestingly, the results revealed a 7% increase in cheerfulness after the experiment. Obviously, it is impossible to say if this rise was due to the happiness project as it might be caused by many different factors, including world events or changes in the weather.

We would like to thank everyone who participated in the experiment. Further results from the study will be posted on the website as soon as they are available.