The Happiness Equation

I think I’m really funny.

Not just a light smile, dinnertime entertainment kind of funny. I’m talking laughing until you start to gasp for air, think of the joke hours later and still laugh out loud funny.

Unfortunately for me – and my short lived/nonexistent stand up comic career – I seem to be the only person who elicits these reactions when I tell my jokes. As I mentioned earlier; I think I’m hilarious.

The two words that have the power to make my Dad laugh so hard that his laughter becomes infectious and it’s impossible to not laugh with him are these: I’m funny! I often say them as an insistence. I think if I say them enough times, they will become true. However, to my Dad, the idea that I think I’m funny is way funnier than the actual jokes I tell.

When you think of it, there are a lot of things that are like that, where the thought of it is better than the actual thing. Sometimes, we can get so caught up in the alternate realities that our brains have created, that we forget about the one we’re actually living.

I just finished reading a great novel by Jodi Picoult, called Nineteen Minutes.  The husband of one of the characters is a happiness economist, who developed an equation for happiness: happiness equals reality divided by expectation. He considers, though, the possibility that a person could expect nothing out of a situation, and anything divided by zero is zero.

Though such scenarios show that the equation has faults, I think that  everyone could point to at least one experience of expecting something, and then having it end up completely different. It could end better, or worse than we thought it would, but commonly, it would end differently.

When we expect something – out of an event, person, or other – our expectation is based on a few things. What we want to happen is obviously a part of it, but what we want might be different than what is reasonable, what logistically should happen.

This leads me to the question: are we helped, or harmed by our perception of life?

If we take an optimistic approach, if we see the sun through the clouds, are we only setting ourselves up to be let down? Or will our positivity have positive consequences, and lead us to achieve our dreams?

What about if we take the approach of a pessimist? The skies will be stormier than they actually are – and will this cause us to find happiness when things turn out better than we expected? Or, will we find negative results?

I suppose there’s also a realistic perspective to consider. Seeing things as they are, with an unbiased perspective, an untipped scale. Does this mean that the happiness and sadness we feel because of having logical expectations are relative to the outcome itself? Is this the best approach, or does it strip us of hope, and the possibility of happiness?

I don’t think that happiness can, per say, be defined by an equation. The happiness felt from a situation could, maybe, but in the grand scheme of things, happy isn’t something you can become overnight, from one small success or from one time when reality exceeded your expectations.

I believe happiness is the summation of all of the times things turned out better than you thought they would, combined with the perspective you gained from the times when your expectations were higher than the reality.

The reality is this: we can create our own happiness. We can choose to be defined by an equation, or we can create our own equation.

My happiness equation is this:  (sherina who thinks she’s funny) + (supportive Dad who laughs at things that aren’t meant to be funny) =  a lot of laughter, aka happiness. What’s yours?

 

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