PODCAST: Work Rest & Slay with Melanie Morris: Episode 2
PODCAST: Work Rest & Slay with Melanie Morris: Episode 2

Shayna Sappington

Suicide prevention: ‘My brother faced stigma, red tape, long waiting times, under-resourced hospitals. In the end it was too much’
Suicide prevention: ‘My brother faced stigma, red tape, long waiting times, under-resourced hospitals. In the...

Amanda Cassidy

This Leeson St home on sale for €2 million is family-friendly but perfect for city living
This Leeson St home on sale for €2 million is family-friendly but perfect for city...

Megan Burns

You will not believe how they made THAT Zendaya Balmain dress
You will not believe how they made THAT Zendaya Balmain dress

Lauren Heskin

If you only see one film in the cinema this year, make it this powerful Irish feature
If you only see one film in the cinema this year, make it this powerful...

Meg Walker

Postpartum Psychosis: ‘It hit me completely out of the blue’
Postpartum Psychosis: ‘It hit me completely out of the blue’

Amanda Cassidy

4 Irish female bosses on getting organised, confidence and the importance of creativity
4 Irish female bosses on getting organised, confidence and the importance of creativity

Shayna Sappington

Two beauty industry stalwarts have teamed up to save cruelty-free cosmetics in Europe
Two beauty industry stalwarts have teamed up to save cruelty-free cosmetics in Europe

Sarah Finnan

Why negotiating a ‘jobbymoon’ before you start your new job is actually a great idea
Why negotiating a ‘jobbymoon’ before you start your new job is actually a great idea

Erin Lindsay

Skin Proud is Glossier’s new 100% vegan and cruelty-free competitor
Skin Proud is Glossier’s new 100% vegan and cruelty-free competitor

Sarah Finnan

Image / Self

The surprising mathematical formula for a happy life (according to Harvard professors)


blank

What if we could measure well-being in a more binary way?

What is the key to happiness? Doesn’t it depend on the individual? What if we are racing up the wrong happy path?

For centuries, we have been obsessed with living the best life that we can, aware of the fragility of it all. As the poet Mary Oliver wrote; “Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

But never have we been as focused on self-love and the pursuit of happiness as right now. Some believe they can find it from objects, cars, handbags, houses. Others hold their religion tight, convinced that is their smiley-shaped key to satisfaction.

Science

But pinpointing the exact intersection between what you desire and being fulfilled is exactly what the clever clogs at Harvard Business School of Happiness have been working on. And the results might surprise you.

Firstly, I know you are wondering if a school like this actually exists, but do not underestimate the power of the need to seek out happiness. Author Arthur C. Brooks teaches a class at the Harvard Business School on happiness.  He says the scientific study of the topic has exploded.

The Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton (both at Princeton University) publish extensively on the subject. The University of Pennsylvania has a whole graduate-degree program in positive psychology, led by Martin Seligman, one of the most distinguished social psychologists in the world. A peer-reviewed academic journal called the Journal of Happiness Studies has been in operation since the year 2000…”

Well-being

Brooks disagrees with the famous Americal novelist, Nathaniel Hawthorne who famously said that “Happiness is a butterfly, which, when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”

According to an essay written by Brooks for the Atlantic, he says it is, in fact, a lot less romantic. He believes it is more about studying things like affect and the limbic system, the neurobiology of body language, homeostasis and the persistence of subjective well-being, oxytocin and love, acquisition centrality and negative affect, and the hedonic treadmill.

Not exactly the floaty notion of hearts and rainbows.

Brooks believes that you can measure happiness with the simple equation; SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING = GENES + CIRCUMSTANCES + HABITS.  In other words, there is a huge genetic component in determining your “set point” for subjective well-being. And that along with circumstance and the habits, meaning the good and the bad that enter all of our lives, is what makes up your happy cocktail.

Still with me?

Needs versus desires

If you don’t like the idea that your ‘Happy’ can be determined long before we’ve even left the womb, he has another one for us. For this, happiness and satisfaction are considered the same.  SATISFACTION = WHAT YOU HAVE ÷ WHAT YOU WANT.

This isn’t entirely new. Spiritual leaders have been drumming this into us since records began. The Dalai Lama said; “We need to learn how to want what we have not to have what we want in order to get steady and stable Happiness.

We were always told as children; Don’t forget it: he has most who needs least.

Ergo, don’t create needs for yourself.

But Brooks warns; “This is not just a gauzy spiritual nostrum, however—it is an intensely practical formula for living. The secret to satisfaction is to focus on the denominator of the equation. Don’t obsess about your haves; manage your wants, instead. Don’t count your possessions (or your money, power, prestige, romantic partners, or fame) and try to figure out how to increase them; make an inventory of your worldly desires and try to decrease them.”

But lowering expectations has never been my style. In fact, desire has motivated most of my life’s work. I guess the real question is what does happiness mean to you because simple satisfaction seems pretty dull to me.

Joy

I’m more of a fireworks-sparkles-end of the rainbow-happiness hunter. I’m looking for all-consuming, turn me upside-down, bowl me over sparks of joy for my one wild and precious life.

I’ve tasted it and am happy to continue to hunt it down. For now, it is the shape of my children’s faces, it is buying the perfect gift for someone you know will adore it, it is flying through the clouds on the way to some new place, it is the perfect pedicure, a long lazy hug, it is feeling centered in yourself and having people around you who really do care.

It was hiding in plain sight, but the pandemic has turned it into a neon flashing sign. Read it, be it, own it, and don’t ever be afraid to chase it.

Image via unsplash.com 

Read more: The secret to a happy marriage (according to relationship therapists)

Also Read

Row to Recovery
HEALTH & WELLNESS
Row to Recovery: The Galway women using the River Corrib to move beyond their cancer diagnosis

A crew of women in Galway have been meeting at the River Corrib twice a week to row together to...

By IMAGE

blank
HEALTH & WELLNESS
‘That was the thing; she hid it’: Caroline Flack hid Bipolar diagnosis

Caroline Flack was told she may be bipolar in the weeks before her death, her mother has said.Caroline Flack was diagnosed...

By Jennifer McShane

blank
RELATIONSHIPS
A sex and relationships therapist on how keep your relationship healthy during a pandemic

Aoife Drury is a Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist who is passionate about dismantling stigma and myths surrounding sex and relationships....

By IMAGE

Lynn Enright
premium PARENTHOOD
Lynn Enright: With motherhood on the horizon, will I ever be interested in alcohol again?

The third lockdown coincided with Lynn Enright’s pregnancy, making giving up alcohol surprisingly easy. However, now she wonders if it’s...

By Lynn Enright

post-lockdown dating diaries
RELATIONSHIPS
Post-lockdown dating diaries: I have a different kind of nervousness for women I’m attracted to

Hannah Kingston reports on the joys (and trials) of post-break-up, post-lockdown dating in Australia.She’s tall, dark and handsome, just my...

By Hannah Kingston

blank
REAL-LIFE STORIES
Eimear Ryan: ‘Girls who play sport are forced to show that despite their unfortunate competitive streak, they’re still feminine girly girls’

While women are sometimes forgotten about in the GAA story, camogie player Eimear Ryan argues that the sport gives women...

By IMAGE

Leaving Cert advice
ADVICE
‘The thaw begins today. This is your Spring’: The gorgeous advice to Leaving Cert students that moved us all to tears

Leaving Cert exam advice that goes beyond “What’s for you, won’t pass you”. Everyone has their own memories of the...

By Sarah Finnan