For around the last 14 months, I’ve been keeping a mostly daily journal, where I (among other things) rate how good my day was that day. I do this on a 1-10 scale, where 1 is the worst and 10 is the best. I don’t think I’m the only person to come up with this - I’m sure that lots of people have thought of this before, and maybe even some of you do it. I like it, because it allows me to track how my happiness has changed over time. Of course, it’s all fairly relative, and over long periods of time, my standards will probably shift. It’s not intended to be an exact measure, but it provides a useful overview of my general well-being.
The thing that makes my 1-10 ratings different from how one might generally rate things 1-10 is that I aim to use the whole scale when rating my days. I think that a 10 shouldn’t just be awarded to a day that was generally pretty good, and a 1 shouldn’t be awarded to a day that was generally pretty bad. If I award these days a 1 or a 10, then what would I give a day that was truly amazing, or truly horrible? This is why, of the roughly 400 days that I have given a rating to, I haven’t given a single 1 or 10, and the number of 2s or 9s that I have given is near zero. Most of my days are contained within the range of 3-8, because that best represents how my days actually are. If I have a fun day, that’s great, but I’ll usually give that a 7 or an 8, because then when I do have the days that are really special, I can give them a rating they deserve.
So now that I’ve explained the basis behind why I rate my days how I do, let me explain in more detail my criteria for when I give each rating, starting with 0 and going all the way up to 10.
0 is not a rating that I ever expect to give any day of my life. Technically, it isn’t even on the scale of ratings 1-10, so why am I even talking about it? Well, a 0 rating is reserved for if something truly terrible - beyond the scope of expected terrible days - happens. It’s for if one of my future children dies, or if I am suddenly diagnosed with a terminal illness and told I have weeks to live. Although I’ve never given a day a 1, and I hope I’ll never have to, I expect that I will at some point. But I wouldn’t expect to ever give a day a 0. It’s just there for the possibility that sometime in the future, I will need to express a rating worse than 1.
Well, that was depressing. On to the more hopeful (but not much more) rating of 1. A 1 is another rating that I’ve never given, but I do think that I probably will have a day that deserves a 1 at some point. This rating is for days which would rank among the worst days of most people’s lives. I find out my girlfriend has been cheating on me, there’s a tragedy in my family, the loss of a close friendship - all of these things and others like them are things that haven’t happened while I’ve been recording journal entries, but are life experiences that plenty of people go through. What differentiates a 1 from a 0 is that most people will have days in their lives that deserve a 1. Not many 1s, but a few. Most people will not have days in their lives that deserve a 0.
And now we come to a 2, a rating that I have given (once). A 2 is for a day that is worse than just a normal bad day. Something significant happens on a day rated a 2 to make me feel bad. While I won’t elaborate on what exactly it was as it’s a personal story, the one day that I gave a 2 was sufficiently terrible that I was basically just sitting in my room thinking about what had happened, the whole day. (The event causing this happened the previous day, which I gave a 3 to.)
Why didn’t I give this day a 1? When I was assigning that day’s rating, I thought to myself - “is there anything that can be salvaged from this day as a positive?” And I decided that yes, there was something. So I decided to give the day a 2, instead of a 1. Even though it was the worst day I’d had in the last year, it wasn’t a complete failure. And a 1 is only for complete failures, or days when something so bad happens that I can’t even look at anything good that did happen that day as a success. Despite feeling terrible the whole day, there was something salvageable - and so the day was marked as a 2.
At 3, we’re up to days that are - while still fairly rare, and still worse than an average “bad day” - not completely terrible, and happen every so often for me. There might not be a specific event that caused me to feel like rating a day a 3, I could just feel really lonely, sad, or some other negative emotion. Looking back on the days that I’ve rated a 3, generally there’s been either a combination of multiple stresses or negative things, or something that occurred that made me feel particularly negatively.
After giving a day a 3, my general thought is “This is bad, but I’m going to get through it fairly soon.” No matter how perfect your life is, everyone has 3s occasionally. I don’t think much of them, generally, and although I might feel bad at the time, I don’t look at them as pivotal moments in my life.
A rating of 4 is my typical “bad day” rating. I’ve given a lot of these (they make up about 10% of all my entries) and there’s nothing too special about them, usually. Most of them are the typical “I felt unproductive today” or “I feel kind of sad today”, or sometimes “The thing I was excited to do today was cancelled”. I quickly scrolled through my days that I’ve rated a 4 and noticed that the predominant thing I was saying was “today kind of sucked,” which makes sense. If my average day is roughly a 6, a 4 is significantly below average.
Even more than days rated 3, I move on quickly from days rated a 4. They’re almost never significant days (aside from rare cases where something very good and something very bad happen on the same day and I average it out), but are just minor speed bumps in the highway of life. (yes I know highways don’t have speed bumps)
It’s hard to find much to say about days rated a 5. They’re basically defined as an average, mediocre day. By saying “average” here, I don’t mean literally that I assign a rating of 5 to the average of all my days. I mean average as in nothing particularly interesting, good or bad, happening that day. I want good things to happen every day, so I don’t want 5 to be the average of my days. A lot of my days do get rated a 5, though, which isn’t a huge problem, just something that I want to improve in the future.
Days that are rated 5 are also often my shortest entries. A day which consisted of “wake up, attend classes, have meals, do homework, go to sleep,” even if I throw in a few more things like “purchase groceries” or “exercise,” is generally not going to have a lot for me to write about in my journal entry. That doesn’t mean it was a bad day, it just wasn’t a particularly good or interesting day.
Finally, we are onto days that I consider good. A 6 is a good day. Not a great day, and there’s not a very high bar to clear to be rated a 6, but it’s still a good day. There are generally two categories that days rated a 6 fall into. Firstly, there’s “days that were mostly boring, but something interesting happened.” This covers days that would be a 5, but maybe I had a particularly interesting meeting, or finished an important assignment, or started reading a good book. This is pretty common, and is probably the majority of my days rated a 6.
The second category that days rated a 6 fall into is “something really good happened, but with a catch.” This covers things like doing something fun with friends, but feeling slightly left out, or getting a promotion, but being worried that you won’t be able to handle the new responsibility. These are days that might be a 7 or higher, but I can’t give them that rating because I’m spending too much time thinking about something negative. These happen occasionally, and are always somewhat disappointing.
These two categories make up almost all of the days that are rated a 6, because it’s hard to have a “pure 6” where most things that happen are slightly above average. Not a lot of things that happen are slightly above average, and if a lot of good things happen, that will probably be a 7 or more as opposed to a 6. That said, it is possible for this to happen, it’s just pretty rare.
A 7 is the rating that I give a day where something fun happens, or I achieve something important, or several good things happen. Personally, the most common reason for me to give a 7 is if I hung out with some friends and had a good time with them. I rarely give 7s to days which don’t involve other people in a significant way, but not because it’s a requirement or anything. It’s just that I am often happier with other people, and so many more of those days end up being labeled as 7s.
A 7 is about the limit of what I would consider to be a sustainable level of how good my average day is. It’s not that I can’t have a string of 8+ rated days in a row, but I think in the long term, it’s not possible to average an 8. I’d love to be proven wrong here, but also if all of my days were rated a 7 on average, I think I would have a pretty happy life.
8 is the highest rating that I’ve ever given to a day, although I do give it to about 5% of my days. On a day rated 8, something especially good has to happen, and I generally end the day thinking “Today was a really good day.” Interestingly, by briefly looking through my days that have been rated 8, I’ve noticed that I don’t usually mention achievements that much. Instead, the list is essentially all days on which I had a lot of fun with friends, in person. I think there’s a lesson about happiness there.
It’s hard to plan out a day that will likely be an 8 or above, though not impossible. If I want to have a day that’s rated a 7, for example, I just have to do a bit of work in finding a fun activity to do with friends, plan it out, and then that day will probably be rated at least a 7. But with an 8, I have found that it’s generally something that turns out to be a lot more fun than I thought it would, so I didn’t plan for it to be that good.
I’ve never given any day a 9. Looking back on the days I’ve given an 8, a couple of them I definitely could have given a 9, but I never modify ratings (I think it’s important to capture my mental state during / shortly after the day), so I’m not going to change these, either. A 9 is basically the opposite of a 2 - it’s a day in which something major happens, but in this case it’s a positive thing rather than a negative thing. Maybe I really strengthen my friendship with some of my friends, maybe my basketball team wins a local championship, but whatever it is, it has to be both a really fun day, and be something that I’ll come back to and think about for weeks afterward. And of course, although it’s not a strict requirement, it will probably involve other people in an important way. I just can’t imagine having a day worthy of a 9 because I got 100% on a test or something.
And finally, a 10. A 10 is essentially the perfect day. Just like a 1 is a day that could qualify as the worst day of my life, a 10 is a day that could qualify as the best day of my life. My future wedding day, the day my future children are born, something that I will always remember as a great day. I don’t think I’ll have a 10 rated day for a long time, but I hope to have a few of them in my life.
I’ve included this category here, not just because my scale really goes to 11, because it doesn’t, but because I think it’s possible that I could have a day that would go beyond a rating of 10. It seems unlikely, but for a day to be rated an 11, I would have to have some sort of happiness that goes beyond just “the best day of my life.” The only way that I could imagine something like this happening is if I had some sort of religious or spiritual experience. While I doubt that I will ever have such an experience, I can’t rule it out definitively, and so I’ll leave it here as an option.
If you don’t want to read all of that, or if you want a reference sheet to start rating your own days, here’s a helpful summary of what I’ve written out above, in table format.
|Rating of Day||Description (Example of something that could cause this rating)|
|0 (not on scale)||A worse day than most people's worst day ever (Ex. being diagnosed with a terminal illness)|
|1||One of your worst days ever, will be remembered for a long time (Ex. being cheated on)|
|2||An overall terrible day, but not quite at the level of your worst ever (Ex. getting fired)|
|3||A very bad day, but not one that will have long-lasting impact (Ex. doing very poorly on a test)|
|4||A below average day, not horrible but definitely not good (Ex. feeling bored and wasting time all day)|
|5||A mediocre day. Not necessarily your average, but a day where very little of note, good or bad, happens. (Ex. a day where you go to work or school, are moderately productive, but don't do much else)|
|6||A good day, but not that good. Generally either a mediocre day with something good/interesting or a great day with something bad. (Ex. an otherwise mediocre day where you watch a great episode of a TV show)|
|7||A good, solid day, not truly great but definitely good. (Ex. getting a pay raise)|
|8||A great day, very little negative and a great memory (Ex. going on a fun vacation)|
|9||An amazing day, not quite your best ever but close (Ex. becoming really close with some of your friends)|
|10||One of your best days ever, will be remembered for a long time (Ex. your wedding day)|
|11 (not on scale)||A higher plane of happiness (Ex. having a spiritual experience)|