quantifying happy

I was one of those teens who hated their small town in the middle of nowhere and couldn’t wait to live in the big city.  People would say how pretty my town was, with the hills and the woods and the cows and blah blah blah, but I was so over it.  (Funny how I’m into all that now, though).  Even so, there were a few things I liked about growing up in the country.  Fireflies.  Visible stars.  And mourning doves.

Mourning dove

Mourning doves make a really specific sound that you would recognize.  And here in New York, mourning doves have set up shop.  Luckily, some mourning doves like to chill in my courtyard.  My bedroom windows are right above them and I get to hear their hooing in the morning.  And lots of other times during the day.  But they like to do their hooing sounds at dawn and it’s a very Zen moment.  Except for the other morning, when a mourning dove pressed himself up against my window screen in a tizzy and was all like, “Hooo-OOOHH-oooh!” with some serious volume.  I jolted awake in a panic that I’d have to deal with a bird in my apartment, but that wasn’t the case.  Now he and a friend like to perch on the fire escape.  When I stare at them, they just stare back.

How much I love hearing mourning doves made me think about happiness in general.  Like how some people are all about the little things (me), while others are into large-scale fun times (still me).  And how happiness can actually be quantified.  Tal Ben-Shahar teaches a happiness course at Harvard and offers six tips for happiness.  His research shows that the most important factor in being happy is friendship, followed by health.  Which is so true, since we all know that material things do not make us happy for very long.  Well, maybe except for the sexy iPhone, but I don’t have one so how would I know?

A happiness equation has been formulated, which can be basically represented as HAPPINESS = REALITY / EXPECTATION.  Jodi Picoult references this in her brilliant Nineteen Minutes.  I’m one of those people with really high expectations.  Maybe they’re too high.  But I like how my expectations drive me to always be working toward the next goal, always be creating something better.  I never forget that anything is possible.  And that makes me happy.

3 thoughts on “quantifying happy

  1. great post. thanks for including the link to the “six tips for happiness.” i hadn’t heard about that course. i’m definitely going to make note of those tips to have as reminders when i fall into those not-so-happy places.
    mourning doves – very distinct and peaceful sound. however, up until a few years ago, i thought that was a soft hoot of an owl (oops!).


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