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The Mathematics of Happiness

Does the title of this blogpost seem a bit like an oxymoron to you ?

Are you one of those people who believe maths and happiness don’t ever belong in the same sentence !

So many people have a fixed mindset about maths, that they are no good at it and never will be. Maybe you feel that your brain is not wired up in that way and that maths will only ever be something that brings you stress and frustration.


Psychologists are now realising that this sort of mindset develops very early in life both from parental input and current teaching attitude and methods . A fixed mindset is where you have made up your mind about your abilities or characteristics and then document and look for evidence to support that decision. In comparison a growth mindset is one that is open to change and development.

Teaching to foster a growth mindset is being trialled in various British Schools at the moment. The work of Carol Dweck the Stanford Psychologist was recently highlighted in a very interesting segment on Woman’s Hour on R4.

The limiting effects of an early fixed mindset are not just seen in maths but also in other areas of people’s experience.




You might like maths but are you one of those people who have decided you are just not creative. Did you decide that you were not any good at drawing pictures at school and this has held you back from trying creative pursuits later on in life.

It isn’t just a fixed mindset around maths and art that can have a constricting impact in our lives. At a very young age the decisions we make about the sort of person we are have far reaching effects into our future. Our child minds can make fixed decisions that continue to hold us back later on in life and stop us doing and experiencing that which could give us deep satisfaction and fulfilment.

I find the power of mindset really interesting and will probably come back to that in another post but today I want to get back to my original thoughts on the mathematics of happiness.

maths symbols


When you think about your own experience of happiness does it seem like a problem of addition. Do you think that you will only be happy when you add things to your life.

How often do your thoughts tell you that you will only be happy when you get those clothes, that gadget, that holiday, move house, loose weight, fall in love.

Initially these things will make us feel better but often that good feeling soon passes and we are left looking for the next addition solution !

Maybe you feel this doesn’t reflect you and that your motivation is more spiritual. Perhaps what you are looking for is more time, peace and relaxation, more connection. We say to ourselves surely that is more worthy than wanting more stuff ! The problem is that this can still be the ego looking for an addition solution just fooling us dressed up in a spiritual guise.

True happiness most often proves to be more of an exercise in subtraction instead.

Unease , unhappiness and discontent are like a stain on a wall. You might be tempted to keep adding layers of paint to get rid of it, in an attempt make everything shiny and clean. At first it looks great but then disappointingly the stain soon starts to come through.

Do you want to spend your life continuously painting over the top or would it be better to strip off the layers and actually clean the stain away once and for all.

In the same way lasting happiness and contentment usually comes from subtraction, letting go of the blocks in our minds to our natural happiness. Blocks such as stressful thoughts, the need to control, obsessions and judgements and then coming to a place of forgiveness.



Simple – yes – but I am not pretending easy !

However recognising this and shifting your perspective on happiness is a massive first step.

What could you subtract rather than add today ?


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