Google’s Happiness Algorithm

How to be happy
Source: Pixabay

Tech giant Google’s commitment to caring for its staff has made headlines for years. The company has found all sorts of novel ways to ensure employees work in a supportive environment, but perhaps none are more interesting than an algorithm for happiness.

Developed a few years ago by one of the company’s Mountain View staff, the 3-step algorithm asks people, among other things, to take note of joyful moments, such as playing online pokies at Mummys Gold Casino. It is purported to put you into a happier state of mind when practiced every day. The creator of Google’s algorithm for happiness even claims his programme is backed by science. Let’s take a closer look.

Who Is Behind The Algorithm

The creator of the three steps to happiness is Chade-Meng Tan. He was inspired to create the system a few years ago for colleagues who were unhappy and under stress.

The engineering employee said that he approached his bosses with the idea of creating a course based on emotional intelligence and mindfulness. The course would not only encourage those qualities, but also provide people with a few basic ways to do it.

Meng’s bosses loved the idea so much that they not only let him put the algorithm for happiness together, they also let him transfer to the HR department so that he could run his programme for the company.

Step 1 – A Calm Mind

The very first step in Google’s happiness algorithm is to calm your mind. According to Meng, one of the easiest ways to do this pretty much anytime, anywhere, is to pause for a few moments, to breath deeply and slowly, and to simply be aware of your breath.

That basic technique is often taught as the beginning steps of meditation; something that is covered in greater depth in Meng’s book, Search Inside Yourself. According to a study by the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Jon Kabat-Zinn, the use of mindfulness techniques can help people reduce anxiety.

Mindfulness as a means to achieving happiness is also promoted by spiritual leaders around the world. Interestingly, those teachings have been supported by at least 209 separate studies.

Step 2 – Log Joyful Moments

The second step of the happiness algorithm that Meng created for Google is to log your moments of joy. That is a slightly complicated way of consciously acknowledging joy, which can be as simple as telling yourself, in the moment, that you are experiencing a joyful moment.

Easy steps to smiling more
Source: Pixabay

Not only are you ensuring that your chances of remembering that joy improve, you also are allowing your mind to balance out negative moments with positive ones. That sounds fair enough, but does science actually support Meng’s use of positive psychology?

A 2006 study found that people who recorded positive events in their diaries felt a greater sense of satisfaction with life; an effect that can last for a couple of weeks.

Step 3 – Wish Happiness For Others

The simple third step in the course that Meng developed for Google employees is to wish for others to be happy. What? Take the focus off ourselves? In the Me Generation?

Yes, that’s exactly what Meng means!

For him, one of the greatest sustainable sources of happiness is kindness, because he believes we are happier when we give than when we receive. Although Meng seems to leave it at the level of wishful thinking, the study he cited in support of his claim that practising more compassion will make us happier actually is about performing kind actions for others. After all, actions speak louder than words.

Another study, not mentioned by the Google employee, indicated that dancing was the only activity that made people feel more joy than they feel when doing charity work. 

But Does It Work?

It’s fine and well for Meng to quote studies that support his claims. People who believe in ancient aliens also quote studies in support of their claims, so does the happiness algorithm actually work? According to psychologist Tom Stafford, those technique supposedly backed by science will work if you have the personality for it. He added that the subject of happiness is a complex one, especially because science works with group averages, rather than focussing on any one person’s experience.