The Math of Happiness

Mathophiles rejoice! There is now an official equation for happiness. Researchers at University College London have determined that happiness has to do with expectations. So listen up pessimists because it turns out you’re right – having low expectations increases the chances that we will be pleasantly surprised at the outcome, which makes us happy. And score one for the optimists as well: positive anticipation brings us happiness for the time period before an outcome occurs. Here’s a caveat for anyone considering converting to pessimism in order to maximize that surprise-outcome-happiness: chronically, in the long run, it doesn’t work. When you teach yourself to expect the worst you train your brain to notice negative things that support your belief. You unwittingly dismiss or warp evidence that conflicts with your negative outlook and by the time the better-than-expected outcome occurs you’re in such a cynical funk that you won’t be impressed by it. Let there be room for eager anticipation while having reasonable expectations for the outcome. Get excited about the movie you’re planning to see but don’t expect it to be the event of the year. Eagerly anticipate that first date without putting them on a pedestal. In other words, just do this.