Happiness. A destination or a part of the journey?
One of my favorite descriptions of how to obtain happiness comes from ancient Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. It’s the happiness equation.
According to these ancient philosophies:
HAPPINESS = REALITY ÷ EXPECTATION
If we go back to our 4th grade division and fraction days, we can understand that the higher the number on the bottom is, the lower the answer will be. The higher the number on the top is, the higher the answer will be.
Essentially, the fewer desires we have and the more grateful we are for our reality, the happier we will be. This doesn’t mean to throw your ambitions out the door but instead determine what is realistic at this point and work with that. Your reality is what already exists and by expressing gratitude for the things you already have; true happiness is obtainable.
SHIFTING OUR EXPECTATIONS
I believe the part about expectations is mostly geared toward material things. The newest iPhone keeps you happy until you see a newer one come out. Now you have newfound expectations of what an iPhone should be but your reality is that you still have the older version. What if instead of expecting to get this newer iPhone you were grateful for the fact that have a phone and doubly so, a smartphone that does everything. Now your expectations are lower and your reality is higher which equals happiness!
Here are a few additional evidence-based steps to long-term happiness:
1. Let go of the bullshit. Don’t sweat the small stuff. But more importantly remember that great things are happening to you when you look for them. When we expect people to apologize, get you a gift, etc., our desires inhibit us from truly feeling happiness.
2. Find your tribe and hold them tight. Show these people your appreciation because they are the ones you spend your time with, which means they are your reality, and once you strengthen those relationships, you can enhance your own happiness.
3. Exercise. Exercise increases our serotonin and dopamine levels – aka our “feel good” neurotransmitters. It allows us to release cortisol and therefore maximize feelings of happiness.
Any time I’m feeling low about something I want or don’t have, I come back to this equation. Are my desires unreasonable and/or do they only lead to short-term happiness? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then I reevaluate those expectations to change my reality.
This doesn’t mean we’re going to be happy all the time.
Happiness is just one of the many human emotions so it is unreasonable to expect happiness to be constant. But adopting these practices can enhance happiness and joy in the long-term which will then lead to a higher quality of life. And, in the end, that’s really the point right?
IT’S ALL A PART OF THE JOURNEY!
If you’d like to learn other ways to improve your quality of life, schedule a complimentary consult with me to see if we can work together to optimize your health and happiness!
Morres, I. D., Hinton-Bayre, A., Motakis, E., Carter, T., & Callaghan, P. (2019). A pragmatic randomised controlled trial of preferred intensity exercise in depressed adult women in the United Kingdom: secondary analysis of individual variability of depression. BMC public health, 19(1), 941. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-7238-7
Nicola Petrocchi & Alessandro Couyoumdjian (2016) The impact of gratitude on depression and anxiety: the mediating role of criticizing, attacking, and reassuring the self, Self and Identity, 15:2,191-205, DOI: 10.1080/15298868.2015.1095794
Optimism and Healthy Aging in Women, James, Peter et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 56, Issue 1, 116 – 124 University Of Michigan. (1999, August 11). Low Sense Of Belonging Is A Predictor Of Depression. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990810164724.htm