What is true happiness? Is it a feeling, a state of being, or something that you can calculate out? How is happiness measured? It is different for every person. One person could be extremely happy to find a $20 bill on the ground while someone else would be sad that they didn’t find more. Some would be distraught over the fact that they have to work overtime while others take on more and more because they are happy to do it. This is what makes it so hard to determine what makes people happy but researchers from the Max Planck UCL Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing have figured out a fancy formula for showing how to calculate happiness.
The formula looks very complicated but what it boils down to is that happiness is derived from the expectations that you have in life. If you expect things to be perfect you will never be happy as nothing is perfect. If you expect that things will not be as great as you want them to be it makes things that much better when they are and will give you a sense of happiness. Dr. Robb Rutledge is one of the lead researchers on this study and he says that the formula shows that happiness equals past experiences, past rewards, and expectations.
This study covers happiness that happens in the moment but will never be able to give a clear picture of happiness over time and for life. Rutledge says that it wouldn’t make sense to try and figure out how to make someone happy for life in a lab. They must figure that out on their own. One study that was conducted involved 26 participants playing a game. They were given a certain amount of money and then were given the choice as to whether they wanted to earn the money or gamble and try to win more (or possibly lose it all). Rutledge found that those who won money gambling were much happier because it exceeded their expectations of what they thought the game was going to turn out like.
Now this is not to say that you should have low expectations for everything in life. Try to set reasonable expectations so that there is still a chance that the outcome will exceed expectations but you aren’t able to enjoy the thought of something good coming if your expectations are too low.