Some people just seem intrinsically happy, right? Whereas others tend to veer towards unhappy more of the time. The truth is, we can all be happy. Happiness is not an emotion that we enjoy because of sheer luck or chance. Happiness, in fact, is so predictable that there is a simple formula that defines exactly what it is.
The simple fact is that ‘you feel happy when life behaves the way you want it to,’ writes Mo Gawdat, happiness expert and author of Solve for Happy. Unsurprisingly, the opposite is also true, ‘unhappiness happens when your reality does not match your hopes and expectations’. For example, Mo explains that ‘when you expect sunshine on your wedding day, an unexpected rain represents a cosmic betrayal. Your unhappiness at that betrayal might linger forever, waiting to be relived anytime you feel blue or hostile toward your spouse: “I should have known! It rained on our wedding day!”.’
The happiness equation
But your happiness is not reliant on a chance rain shower. Instead, it’s reliant on your expectations. The best way to explain the definition of true happiness is with Mo Gawdat’s Happiness Equation:
The formula reveals the secret to happiness—that when your expectations are equal to, or less than, the reality of events then you are happy.
Happiness is a thought
In reality, it’s not the event that makes us unhappy, it’s the way we think about it that does. Let that sink in. Your happiness is all in your perception, and the key is to focus on positive thoughts. Yes, it might rain on your wedding day but that doesn’t change the fact that you’re marrying the person you love! That is what makes it a wonderful day, not the weather. Not convinced? The best way to reaffirm the idea is with the Blank Brain Test.
TODAY’S HAPPINESS TASK
Start by recalling a time you felt unhappy, perhaps a friend was rude to you, and think about it for a minute or two. We know it’s not fun, but it will be worth it.
Now think of something else like your favourite ice cream, or play a song you love. How do you feel now?
When you stopped thinking about what makes you unhappy, at that moment, you felt better right? That means, once the thought goes away, so does the suffering. Often, we can't control what happens but we can control how we think.
Mo explains in his book that when a rude person apologises it doesn’t erase the event, but it does make you feel better, simply because the gesture changes the way you think about what happened. It brings the emotional world inside you and the world events outside you into better alignment and balances out your Happiness Equation.
Click here for Day 4 of the Happiness Challenge.