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Are Lowered Expectations the Key to Happiness?

Happy Otter

As per The Telegraph, a new study suggests that those of us who’ve grown accustomed to lowered expectations are an altogether happier bunch. Perhaps, they ponder, it’s even the key to ‘happiness’, whatever on Earth that may be.

In their quest to measure happiness levels, a group of researchers at University College London devised a unique (albeit simple) formula and the results drawn have really piqued our interest. If this report is anything to go by, apparently it’s not so much about how things are going overall in our lives, but whether or not they’re going better than we had expected.

In terms of our enjoyment of one particular event, for example, this makes sense: you’re off to see a show with little or no expectations and thanks to the fact that you hadn’t hyped it up, you leave the theatre on a high. On the contrary to this, you had an amazing holiday last year and plan to do it all again this year, but you’re expectations are so high from that first trip, you return to find yourself disappointed.

Here’s how they did it: 26 people were asked along to play a gambling game where they could choose to stick with receiving 40p per game or gamble and possibly win 90p, but with that there was a chance they’d win nothing.

Interestingly, their subjects didn’t find the idea of accumulating money to fill them full of happiness, but became far happier at the prospect of acquiring more money, especially when they had not, in the first place, expected to win big.

Commenting on what all of this says about our ongoing desire for endorphins, Dr Robb Rutledge, who led this study, said: “It is often said that you will be happier if your expectations are lower… 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.”

As for how this impacts on your overall wellbeing, we’re not so sure. Can we really expect that if we go about our business with constantly lowered expectations that we’ll wind up in a better mood overall? What does this say about the power of positive thinking?

Caroline Foran @CarolineForan

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