Happiness Quotient

Are you happy?

Basically, we are as happy as we think we are. . . . .  the heart will always tell the truth.

Like the Buddha, we can sit under the Bodhi tree meditating what constitute peace and happiness. But as an engineer, I have been looking for something more mathematical.

Can we calculate happiness? Some say there is a Happiness Quotient. If R is Reality and E is our expectation then the quotient R/E is a subjective measure of our happiness.

Happiness =R/E

If  Reality exceeds Expectation, then we are happy.

We will increase our propensity for happiness, if we do not over expect. In fact, one of the Buddha’s teachings is that if  we can transcend to a level where we no longer have expectations, then  we will have eternal peace and happiness.

The quest for happiness is universal. In the last decade, BBC have been carrying out various surveys and  comprehensive investigation as to what constitutes happiness. These were covered in a six part series. One formula they propose was:

Happiness =P + (5 X E) + (3 X H)

P stands for Personal Characteristics, including outlook on life, adaptability and resilience.

E stands for Existence and relates to health, financial stability and friendships and

H represents Higher Order needs, and covers self-esteem, expectations, ambitions and sense of humour.

I suppose the factor of 5 times on E asserts that health, financial stability and friendships have, as a group, the biggest influence on happiness.

Happiness may only be a by-product; it may be difficult to get everybody agree to a single formula. Dr. Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, came up with a different formula:

Happiness = S + C + V

S is your biological set point.

C and V refer to two different kinds of “externals”.

C,  the conditions of your life and V, the voluntary activities that you undertake.

Some of the conditions cannot be changed (sex, race, age, disability) while others (such as  marital status, wealth, where you live) may change with time. As time goes by, the realities of these factors may differ from your expectations or they just remain constant so  they disappear from your mental awareness.

Voluntary activities are things that you choose and like to do in the first place.  They may include doing charity work, learning new skills, meditation, taking on new hobbies or taking a travelling vacation.  These chosen activities will take conscious effort and attention, as such they can’t just vanish from your awareness the way that conditions can. These activities, therefore, offer much greater promise for longer term happiness.

Maybe the formulae are still simplistic and will not hold true for all the time, just as the Relativity theory of Einstein has to give way to other more embodying concepts. Although the above are presented as equations, I doubt whether they can be quantified and whether they have included all the main factors / variables. Nonetheless, these handy formulae will keep us mindful of not having too high expectation (something which we have some degree of control), don’t be bogged down by set or historical factors (something which we cannot do much about) and  don’t shy away from taking voluntary activities (something entirely under our control).

Quoting from Bette Davis, “You will never be happier than you expect. To change your happiness, change your expectation.”

12 thoughts on “Happiness Quotient

  1. Put on a smile each day-that’s happiness ! It has been thought that for each smile, you increase your life expectancy and increase the Happiness quotient amongst your loved ones.

  2. A smile costs nothing but gives much. It enriches those who receive without making poorer those who give. It takes but a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever. None is so rich or mighty that he cannot get along without it and none is so poor that he cannot be made rich by it. Yet a smile cannot be bought, begged, borrowed, or stolen, for it is something that is of no value to anyone until it is given away. Some people are too tired to give you a smile. Give them one of yours, as none needs a smile so much as he who has no more to give. ~Author Unknown

  3. This was interesting. Sometimes I’m happy sometimes I’m not. But I agree with Bette Davis, it usually does depend on expectations. I think happiness is over-rated. Can’t be happy all the time. If you’re unhappy then you wouldn’t know when you are happy…it’s a strange thought. Yin and yang…can’t have yang all the time, need the yin to appreciate and balance the yang.

    But smiling? It’s always good to give one…unless it’s a sad occasion…then it would be cruel, I guess…

    I like the stuff you’ve got here in your blog, Sir. Lots of food for thought.

    More of my 2cents, hope you didn’t mind 🙂


    • Hi, thanks for reading some of my earlier posts. When I first retired, I thought more about life and other more philosophical matters. Now, I think more about colors / photos / learning / exercise. Thank you for the kind comment 🙂

    • I think a lot of bloggers started out that way. I like reading your thoughts, you have a perspective that I’ll probably never have and there are many lessons to learn that you’re sharing there. I’ll keep reading the older ones, if that’s all right 🙂

    • Hi My Tropical Home, I am glad that you are reading some of my earlier posts which give some of my thoughts. In fact, I think my earlier posts are better written than those recently written about my travels. Many thanks for the perusal and comment 🙂

  4. Would expectation be different from hope? If one has a rare illness, would hope give some relief or can one hope without expecting it to be realized?

    • Hi, that is a very philosophical question. I think you can expect something to happen, based on the best of knowledge and advice. At the same time, you can hope that things will turn up to be better than expected – with God’s help, with prayers, with miracles etc. Hope you would agree (but not expecting you to agree). Thank you 🙂

    • There are many things which are beyond our control and expectation; but still, there are many things we can do in face of adversity. Thank you 🙂

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