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Researchers attempt to find the equation for happiness

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(NaturalNews) It's no secret that happiness is beneficial to health, and now researchers from the University College London are attempting to delve deeper, seeking to actually calculate what makes people experience the feel-good emotion from one moment to the next. According to the researchers, pinpointing these moments, and learning what drives them, may have applications in clinical settings when it comes to helping those with mood disorders. They also suggest that better understandings of happiness through more definitive calculations can aid in improved management of emotions and expectations in society, including on a personal front.(1)

The findings, which were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, seem to all boil down to the concept of expectation. In a nutshell, their equation notes that individuals are happiest when events turn out better than what they anticipated. A portion of the published article, titled "A computational and neural model of momentary subjective well-being," notes the following:

Conscious emotional feelings, such as momentary happiness, are core to the ebb and flow of human mental experience. Our computational model suggests momentary happiness is a state that reflects not how well things are going but instead whether things are going better than expected. This includes positive and negative expectations, even in the absence of outcomes.(2)

Happiness involves expectations, is not financially driven

For the study, volunteers participated in decision-making tasks which they were told would result in financial gains or losses. While their brain activity was monitored, they were periodically asked to describe their current level of happiness regarding how they felt as they engaged in the tasks. Reinforcing the saying about money not buying happiness, it was found that their happiness was linked to doing better than expected as opposed to total wealth accumulated.(1)

Researchers then explored the matter further, having participants use a smart phone game called "What makes me happy?" Unlike the previous group, they received points rather than money as they completed tasks, however, similarly to the earlier group, they too experienced happiness when they did better on the task than they anticipated they would.(1)

"Emotions aren't something we should be afraid of," said Robb Rutledge, lead study author and a neuroscientist at University College London in the United Kingdom. "Happiness and sadness are part of being human. Happiness depends not on how well things are going, but whether they are going better or worse than expected. That means that happiness may be useful for telling us whether to change what we're doing. If we're more unhappy than usual, maybe sometimes that means we should try something different. If we're happy, maybe that means we're doing the right things."(3)

He explains that people tend to experiences the highest levels of happiness after several things have gone well and the greatest unhappiness tends to be after several things go badly, extremes which occur the more people take risks.

Other findings have shown that happier people have a 35 percent lower risk of dying over a five-year period compared to unhappy people, and other research concludes that those in a depressed state tend to experience more physical pain while also being more prone to developing heart problems.(4,5)


(1) http://brainblogger.com

(2) http://www.pnas.org

(3) http://www.livescience.com

(4) http://www.huffingtonpost.com

(5) http://www.psychologytoday.com

About the author:
Raw Michelle is a natural health blogger and researcher, sharing her passions with others, using the Internet as her medium. She discusses topics in a straight forward way in hopes to help people from all walks of life achieve optimal health and well-being. She has authored and published hundreds of articles on topics such as the raw food diet and green living in general. >>> Click here to see more by Michelle

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