Finally, someone says he’s found the key to happiness — it’s a formula that looks like this: O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He.

Welsh psychologist Dr. Cliff Arnall devised the formula based on those things that tend to make us feel the best. O stands for being outdoors, N for connection with nature (how these first two are different exactly I'm not sure), S for social interaction, Cpm for memories of childhood summers, T for temperature and He for excitement about holidays.

To determine one’s level of happiness on any given day, Dr. Arnall gives values to the symbols in his equation. Scientifically speaking, of course, this is, as they say over on Dr. Arnall’s side of the pond, a total load of bollocks.

But even from sociological and psychological perspectives, I see a couple red flags fluttering. First of all, can any true measure of happiness neglect the satisfaction we feel from giving and giving back? Secondly, I notice that this equation does not include coffee. Anyone else dubious about this?

Regarding the first point, I can’t imagine I’m the only kid who was excited about Christmas not only because I got to receive presents but because I got to watch my loved ones open the gifts I had carefully chosen for them. I doubt I’m unique in valuing a career path in nonprofits (or public service) because it gives me a sense of meaning and well-being to work for worthy causes and promote the social good. I believe it is not at all unusual to find a smile on your face after you've helped someone in need.

In fact, I don’t think it’s going too far to state that doing something that addresses the larger good (whether it’s giving up your bus seat for an old lady, donating a dollar to a worthy cause or spending your days working at a food bank) is essential to a fundamental sense of happiness.

I therefore hereby modify Dr. Arnall’s formula thus: Happiness = (O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He) x G, where G stands for doing good in some way.

I recognize that this means those who give and give back will be orders of magnitude happier than those who don’t. But that’s probably true in the end, or at least during the nervous breakdown when those with a low “G” score realize their ungenerous lives have no meaning.

Oh, and about my second point, I must yet again revise: (O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He) x G + C, where C, of course, is caffeine.

My alterations to this formula have the benefit of adding more factors that we can control. One downside of the original formula is that we can only influence half of the factors in it (O, N and S). Subscribing to that formula would mean learning to appreciate the natural ebbs and flows of our lives instead of striving too hard for joy.

And that leaves little room for my search for the perfect latte.

By Katherine Gustafson of Tonic. For more latest news on good news, visit

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