Keeping expectations low may be the key to happiness, scientists have found. Researchers at University College London created a formula to predict happiness levels. They discovered that feeling happy depends not on how well things are going overall, but whether they are going better than might be expected.
They found that accumulating wealth did not make people happier, but the expectation of acquiring more money, did make happiness levels shoot up, particularly if people were not expecting to win big.
“It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower,” said lead author, Dr Robb Rutledge.
“We find that there is some truth to this: lower expectations make it more likely that an outcome will exceed those expectations and have a positive impact on happiness.”
“If you have plans to meet a friend at your favourite restaurant, those positive expectations may increase your happiness as soon as you make the plan,” said Dr Rutledge.
But the team found that visiting a favourite restaurant could actually make people unhappy because their expectations are so high that it would not take much for them to be disappointed.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.