Philosophy Psychology

Mathematical formula for happiness

Happiness is a state of being that should be the goal for everyone. What ‘happiness’ actually means to you is for sure different than it means to me. But why would you not want to be happy? It is so simple!

Definition of happiness

Happiness is not a reward – it is a consequence.
Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899)

Before we can objectively talk about being happy, we should define an objective meaning for happiness. Not surprisingly, the research of this subject lead me to a thread in Conclusion being, that it’s very subjective how happiness can be defined objectively.

Without going any deeper into philosophy, let’s just say that ‘happiness is a state of being which everyone of us defines in their own way’. In other words, it is a state of subjective well-being.

The most important thing to understand, is that happiness is quantitative. Meaning that if something happens, happiness can increase. And if something else happens, happiness can decrease.

Formula for happiness

Robb Rutledge, of the Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research, has written an article Can we predict happiness?. In their research they came to a conclusion, that happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether things are going better or worse than expected.

This is represented by this beautiful (I said I’m a nerd, right?) formula called Computational Model of Momentary Subjective Well-Being:

Formula for happiness

An article in Business Insider summarizes the formula nicely: “Happiness depends on safe choices (certain rewards, CR), expectations associated with risky choices (expected value, EV), and whether the outcomes of risky choices were better or worse than expected. This final variable is called a reward prediction error (RPE), the difference between the experienced outcome and the expectation.”

Applying the formula to our day-to-day life

Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.
Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

As I said, the formula for happiness is a clear one. Prefer things that have an expected outcome of increasing your own subjective well-being and avoid things that might decrease it.

Sure there are exceptions. Not everything is under our control and there are situations that might prevent us from feeling happy. Depression and other health issues being one of those. But not even that can be used as an excuse to do things that would tip the scale in favor of unhappiness.

Just don’t worry and be happy.