How to Increase Your Happiness with the Happiness Equation

Written by Devesh Tilokani: 4th year HBA

All human activities are motivated by two impulses: revulsion to sorrow or yearning for joy. Human discoveries from starting the first fire to discovering electricity are nothing but milestones in our journey from sorrow and unhappiness, to a rush towards joy and bliss. Let us try looking at it from an individual level.

On an individual level, we are constantly seeking the agreeable or comfortable zone that we love, and run away from anything that is disagreeable or pushes us outside our comfort zone. Therefore, we are constantly trying to create a balance of favourable factors in our lives. We may succeed for a while, but continuously fluctuate between satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Since happiness is the goal at an individual and societal level, it really is important to figure out: where is happiness located?

We normally tend to think that the joy we experience through our five sense organs lies in the sense objects our organs pursue (sense objects related to materialistic things we pursue). For example, when we listen to a good song through our ears (sense organ), it feels great at first. However, after a while, we get bored of the song, stop listening to it and move on to the next one.

As we pursue this belief that happiness lies in these objects, we try to acquire more and more of these sense objects or possessions. Many of us succeed in gathering a large amount of possessions in our lives, but we somehow find our happiness is not any more than before. Nonetheless, let us look at the idea of wealth being a measure of happiness.

If wealth were contained in those objects or possessions, each object would provide the same amount of joy to all those who encountered it. But sadly, that is not the case. For example, someone smoking a cigarette loves it but the person standing right next to him or her is going through agony because he or she does not like the smell, texture etc. Therefore, joy cannot be found in these objects that are bought through wealth. Now, if joy is not in the sense objects, where is it?

This leads to the fundamental question as to what is happiness? Therefore, let us look at the concept of happiness being a state of mind. When the mind is agitated, we feel sorrow and anxiety. When the mind is tranquil, we feel joy. Thus, we can conclude that happiness is actually a state of mind. Now, tranquillity can be brought by contact with sense objects, but that tranquillity turns out to be temporary. For example, when we buy a new car, we normally get super excited and it provides us with that initial happiness. After a while, our happiness tends to reduce as we get used to the car.

Therefore, we can conclude, that lasting satisfaction does not come from sense gratification. Additionally, once we learn to quieten the mind, our mind is no longer running after every thought and object around us. A person who quietens the mind stands out like a beacon of light to others.

Now, let us look at the happiness equation: Happiness = Number of Desires Fulfilled / Number of Desires you have

We can increase the amount of happiness by either:

  1. Increasing the numerator
  2. Decreasing the denominator

Fulfilment of desires, which is increasing the numerator, tends to quieten the agitations created by these desires, reducing them and consequently decreasing the denominator and reducing further agitations. With both cases, the reduction in agitations within the mind lead to a net gain in happiness. However, there is one caution about working on the numerator only: fulfilling our desires generally creates more desires.

For example, when you buy a new house, that desire is fulfilled. Then, the desire for a new couch comes up. Once that is satisfied, suddenly you have a desire to get a swimming pool. It never stops. One desire after another. And, as the number of desires increases, the denominator increases, resulting in reduced happiness.

Thus, the best way of establishing permanent happiness is to reduce the number of desires entertained by directing our thoughts to a higher ideal, principle or vision. Desire is something personal, but a vision is something that is for the betterment of everyone.

Attaching yourself to a higher life vision with a clear intent helps sublimate a lot of desires, thereby reducing the denominator and increasing the overall net gain in happiness.

Disclaimer: this took me a little bit of time to figure out personally. If you need more clarification on the happiness equation or want to learn more about it, feel free to reach out to me!

Check out Devesh's blog, Progressholic, for more blog posts and podcasts. Follow on Instagram @progressholics!

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