Simply Happy

Today I read a NYtimes article called “But will it make you happy?” As is the trend now in this economic recession, people seem to be cutting down their spending and living minimally. Especially in the US and Europe which were hit hardest by the recent financial crisis, consumers behaviour have been changing.

The article tells the story about how a couple working in the corporate world with everything they wanted, but no happiness, decided to live “simply” and downsized their belongings to no more than 100 items. Out went the extra dishes, the tv, clothing and things that weren’t needed. Three years later, they are debt free, living sparsely and as happy as can be.

Living with 100 items is a bit extreme pretty much like wearing only six pieces of clothing for a month, but the article intriques me.

Happiness they say is really more of the “memories” than the “objects” you own. After owning something for awhile, one eventually gets used to it and then the “happiness” fades away. The pleasurable sensation one feels dies away with time.

I think it has some truth to it.

For things that you just buy on the spur of the moment (an impulse buy) or things that you get without having given much thought to it, just because it was “cute” or because it looked pleasant, might be the things that you eventually grow accustomed to after awhile and then the happiness you get from it fades away. I must admit, I have quite a number of “impulse” buys lying around in boxes left untouched for years. Little knicks and knacks.

Now they no longer give me happiness but give me a headache. I lack the space to store all the accumulated junk I own. They are increasingly becoming a burden to me. I want to throw them away, yet somehow feel that they are still in “too” good a condition to get rid off. “Too” expensive to just donate, and no outlet to get rid of them. It’s a big dillemma, what do I do with everything?

My goal is to one day live like I would in a hotel room with only a few of my necessities. Start out with a clean slate.

“Memories,” however, are something you can’t take away. The enjoyable trip to the beach, or one to a far away land are things that are forever embedded in your mind. A walking tour of the city and discovering new places can make you happier longer than the 100th pair of shoes you are about to buy. “Happier” because of the sensation and the experience you feel.

Apparently, the article also says that the “anticipation” is also something that can give you greater happiness. The longer you book the ticket in advance, the more time you have to “anticipate” your trip, thus the more time you have to think about it and be happy.

I’ve booked my ticket for a trip in October to Japan, and already I can sense the happiness I get from “anticipating” the trip.

So happiness is therefore really “memories” and “sensations.” If we can plan on making ourselves “happier” by deriving pleasure from new experiences and “memories” then we’d be a lot happier than if we spent our days accumulating more things at the store.

Live simply. Live happily.

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