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My Happiness Mind Map: Figuring Out What Happiness Means To ME

Welcome Back for day 5 of my Happiness Project! 

Yesterday, I took a look at what the psychology research and happiness experts had to say about what happiness actually means

With the knowledge I gained from that research, today I will focus more on what happiness means to ME specifically.

My happiness mind map, how I figured out what happiness means to me
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My Happiness Mind Map

All that research yesterday gave me a lot to wrap my head around. So, in order to make sense of all the different ideas, theories, and formulas about happiness, I tried one of my favorite organization techniques – the mind map!

If you’ve never made a mind map before, I’d highly recommend it. Especially if you’re at all like me and find your head swimming in chaotic unorganized thoughts until you can get them down on paper, where suddenly they start making some sense.

My happiness mind map on what happiness means to me.

My Happiness Equation

After making my mind map, a few main themes started to emerge for me. Happiness was important to me of course, but “healthy” also emerged as a major theme.

As I learned with my shoulder injury, it is hard to be happy if you are not also healthy – and if your physical health suffers, it is likely that your mental health may suffer to some degree as well.

Of the equations I presented from my review of the happiness research yesterday four out of 5 of the equations were for happiness, and one was for overall well-being. 

Summary of 5 happiness equations from psychology research and happiness experts
Summary of 5 happiness equations from psychology research and happiness experts.

After making my own mind map, I realized that what I came up with is a little more broad than happiness. Instead it is more about overall well-being.

If I had to write an equation for what I came up with in my mind map it might look something like this:

Healthy (mind + body) + Happy (pleasure + purpose) = Whole

Where here, “whole” refers to overall well being.

What’s In A Name?

Now that you’ve seen my mind map, I’d like to ask you for your help!

I feel that my project should be called something different than my “Happiness Project”. If I truly want to make it my own, I think it should have it’s own name.

Hector Garcia, author of The Ikigai Journey: A Practical Guide to Finding Happiness and Purpose the Japanese Way, encourages us to give our projects inspiring names and claims that words have power and carry magic.

His main example in the book was that instead of saying “I have to get in shape” you could instead say, “I am going to work on my vitruvian man project.” So let’s give it a try. 

Based on my mind map, I have been considering the name: The Happy.Healthy.Whole Project.

But I’m still not quite sold, and would love your input! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

The 5 Areas of Focus For My Project

Now that I am a little more clear on what happiness actually means to me, I have decided which areas of my life I want my project to focus on.

In her project, Gretchen Rubin chose 11 different areas of life to focus on – one for each month January through November, and then all of them at once in December. However, on  Day 2 of my Happiness Project, I decided I only wanted to focus on 5 areas of my life. 

Here are those 5 areas.

#1 – Build Keystone Habits

The first area I have chosen to focus on during my project is keystone habits. A keystone habit can be thought of as the foundation on which other habits can be built. 

Without these fundamental habits, it is very difficult to excel at more complex tasks like eating healthy, building a business, training for a competition, etc.

[Related: 10 Keystone Habits For A Healthy, Happy & Successful Life]

#2 – Improve Physical Health

My second area of focus is physical health, which can include fitness, nutrition, dealing with stress, and getting enough sleep.

Physical health has always been important to me, but even more so now as I am working hard to recover from a shoulder surgery.

Exercise is also one of my most important forms of stress relief, happiness, and community involvement for me (I belong to a canoe club).

#3 – Find My Calling

The third area I chose to focus on for my project is finding my calling, or what some people might call a “purpose” although I’m not fond of that term.

Mark Manson explains the concept of a calling rather well when he says:

“We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time.”

The questions I hope to answer by focusing on my calling during this project are:

  • What can I do with my time that is important?
  • How can I spend less of my life just “killing time”.
  • How can I make a difference in the world?
  • In what ways can I help to improve the life of others with the skills that I have?
  • What important problem can I solve for the benefit of my community?

#4 – Strengthen Relationships

One thing that happiness experts do tend to agree on, is that the quality of our relationships is one of the biggest predictors of whether or not we are happy.

So, the 4th area of focus for my project will be relationships. I will focus on all three types of relationships in my life including romantic, friendships, and family. 

My goal is to strengthen the quality of the relationships in my life as well as to make more time for them. 

#5 – Achieve Life Balance

The 5th and last area of my life that I will focus on during my project, is “Life Balance”.

“Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life.” – John Wooden

This quote really hits home for me. For the last 3 years, I have had a job that I really loved despite it often being stressful, exhausting and frustrating.  Even though I liked the job, I feel like it was beginning to take over my life.

It was a very physical job, and for most of the year I worked 6 days a week at it. On my one day off I was always physically and mentally exhausted. I also always had a lot of chores to catch up on, so I never really did anything fun on my day off. 

Plus, the job had black out dates. I was not allowed to request any time off at any point in the summer, from Thanksgiving until after New Years, or during the month in spring that was “spring break”. 

This means I haven’t been able to get home to Washington State to see my family during the holidays in 3 years. I’ve had to miss weddings and graduations, birthdays and funerals. 

Not to mention the job only gave me one week off per year and paid time off never increased from that no matter how long I worked there.

For all of these reasons, I am thinking it is time to balance out my life a little bit (or a lot).

I want to be able to:

  • Be with my family for the important dates and holidays.
  • Have more time to pursue my hobbies and passions.
  • Have vacation time available to go on the trips and adventures that I used to.
  • Actually enjoy living in Hawaii. What’s the point if I’m just working all the time?!

Now, everyone at my company has been laid off due to Covid-19 which has completely halted the tourism industry here in Hawai’i since March.

Also, in the last two-ish years, I have had two major injuries at work. First a torn hamstring, and now a shoulder which I’ve had to have surgery on.

With the tourism industry shut down, and me being unable to work anyway due to restrictions from my injury – I figure now is the time. If I want to shift my life balance, what better time to do it?

My Areas of Focus Vs. Gretchen Rubin’s

As it turns out, my areas of focus for my happiness project are quite different from those of the inventor of the happiness project. 

And that’s okay! As I concluded on Day 4 of my Happiness Project – it seems like happiness looks different for everyone.

Check out the table below for a comparison of the topics of focus for the two happiness projects.

Table comparing my happiness topics to that of Gretchen Rubin's happiness project.


In order to pursue a happiness project, you have to first determine what happiness means to YOU, because happiness is highly individualized and looks different for everyone.

I would highly recommend using the mind mapping technique to explore and organize your thoughts. From there it will be easier to pick out what your main factors for happiness are. And then, if you’d like to, you can sum up what happiness means to you with a simple equation.

I’d love your help on naming my project! Please let me know in the comments:

  • Do you like the name “The Happy.Healthy.Whole Project”?
  • Can you think of a better name?
  • I’m open to suggestions and would LOVE your creative input!

That’s it for today. Thanks for tuning in for day 5 of my project. I will be posting about my project every day until my birthday 21 days from today, and I would love for you to follow along!

Thanks for your support! Until tomorrow,


What is happiness anyway? How I figured out what happiness meant to me with a happiness mind map.
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Author: clarissa.cabbage

Clarissa is a teacher, a coach, and an avid adventurer! Armed with a master's degree in Exercise and Wellness, she is on a mission to teach people how to build healthier habits that support the adventurous lifestyle of their dreams. There is nothing Clarissa is more passionate about than helping people get active and live their lives to the fullest!

24 Replies to “My Happiness Mind Map: Figuring Out What Happiness Means To ME

  1. The Happy Healthy Whole project sounds like such a fab name! Also I found this post super interesting as I love looking deeper into emotions and what they all actually mean x

    1. Thank you for your feedback on the name Sophie! I’m glad you found this interesting. All be posting about the project every day this month if you’re interested in following along!

  2. I have never made a happiness mind map before, but I love the idea! It would be fun to see what I look forward to and love doing compared to the things I do not get excited about.

    I love the name of your project and agree that knowing what makes us or helps us stay happy is an important thing to know about ourselves. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for weighing in on the name Jaya! It had been interesting seeing which things I truly enjoy and which things are a chore. Tal Ben-Shahar talks about making small changes in our life so that we spend more time on the “want to’s” and less on the “have to’s” whenever possible. Obviously that won’t be all the time since we have responsibilities, but it’s likely there is room for improvement. Thanks so much for reading!

  3. I’ve never heard of a Happiness Mind Map, seems almost overwhelming to me. Like it’s going to be too much WORK! I would have to take this in small chunks. Change is not easy for me. Good luck on your pursuit of happiness!

    1. Thank you Julie! Change is hard for humans in general, it definitely takes a lot of effort to change our ways.

      I definitely agree there’s a lot going on in the mind map – that’s why I made it, simply to organize my thoughts on the complex topic of happiness. Who would have thought there are so many factors that play into this seemingly simple emotion?

      I absolutely would not recommend tackling everything at all once – you’re right, that would be super overwhelming! That’s why I chose just a few items from my mind map to address in my project compared to the 11 Gretchen Rubin chose for hers.

  4. I love that you’ve included physical health. So many people are equate happiness with just the mental health component. Unfortunately, I feel like that overlooks a huge part. If you’re physically unwell, that’s going to impact every area of your life!

    1. Yes, I definitely agree Britt! And what better time to bring the physical health to front and center than in the middle of a pandemic. I think when we’re so busy and stressed, it can easily fall to the wayside. Thanks so much for reading!

  5. This is VERY interesting to read about and process. I’ve never even heard of a mind map. To be honest it is a little overwhelming at first, but I think there is a lot of great value here. Thank you so much for sharing these concepts.

    1. You’re welcome! It is a little overwhelming isn’t it? Happiness seems like a simple thing on the surface, but if we look a little closer what we see is really only the tip of the iceberg. That’s why I love the mind map. In my head all those ideas are so chaotic, but on paper, they start to take on some order. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this!

  6. I love that the project you’re working on now is about happiness. It’s so interesting to learn that there are many happiness equations and that you found your own happiness equation. It’s true that each of us has our own definition of happiness and now it’s got me thinking about what my equation would be. In terms of your project name, it’s quite catchy as it is! I came up with 2 other names 😂
    – the road to wholesome happiness & health project
    – healthful (combo of healthy & “full” for whole) happy project
    And best of luck Clarissa to posting about your project daily! 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for your support Izzy! I definitely think doing this project will help me learn a lot about myself, maybe a little about how to help others, and definitely a ton about blogging!

      Thanks so much for the name suggestions. They are definitely catchy! ☺️

  7. This is such a great way to be aligned with your mind and emotions. I absolutely love your project and now, I’m thinking about my own equation haha ☺️
    Thanks for writing this! Xx

    1. You’re welcome Cherry! It’s kind of a fun exercise to make a mind map and figure out your own equation. If you ever do it, please share! I’m interested to see how vastly different everyone’s are. ☺️ Thanks so much for reading!

  8. You’re on day 5 already?! Where has this week gone! I swear I just read about you starting this. Now I’m off to go catch up on what I’ve missed 🙂

    My first thought was “The Wholeness Project” but a quick google search says that might be in use by some people already.

    I love mind maps. That’s actually the first thing we did when starting/coming up with our blog! They are so helpful. And it’s really interesting to see your process and how this concept was flushed out for you.

    1. Thank You Alison! I love mind maps as well. I am glad to hear you found the process interesting. I was a little worried that people might find it a boring. I do like the name the wholeness project! It’s a little more succinct. Too bad its taken!

      Thank you for following along, this week definitely has gone by fast!

  9. As always, I’m inspired my your posts Clarissa. I feel like a fan girl!
    I like the name you’re thinking of, or perhaps something like The Whole, Healthy, Happiness Project?
    A lot of this post was like it was directed at me haha. It seems we are very similar! As you know I’ve had issues with keeping a work life balance recently but since I’ve been back I’ve been strict with myself, taking breaks and finishing on time. I’ve even started the couch to 5k app again every evening after work and I can’t believe I had forgotten how happy exercise makes me!
    That John Wooden quote is exactly what it’s all about.
    Thanks again! I missed the other days so going to read them now x

    1. Awwww thanks for following along Ellie! I think you’re right that we’re going through some of the same things right now.

      Another quote I found that seemed super relevant was: “The challenge of work-life balance is without question one of the most significant struggles faced by modern man.” -Stephen Covey

      And I absolutely agree. I hope I can find some solutions to my work-life balance through this project!

  10. What a great idea! As for the name, I’m not sure what to suggest (other than if something doesn’t quite sit well with you then it’s definitely not the right name). Maybe the word ‘project’ is something to change? As this is more like a discovery or journey .. not sure, haha! But I know it will just come to you and you’ll know it fits perfectly ;y when it does!

    1. Thanks for your input Molly! It’s funny that you mention the “project” part of the name. This is the part I wasn’t sold on. I actually used the thesaurus and came up of a whole list of other words relating to journey or experiment etc. But still had trouble settling on one. It’ll come I’m sure. Thanks for reading and following along!

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