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.”