Learning to live with less. It really does buy happiness.

Submitted by Jen Jones on Tue, 09/07/2010 - 7:31pm

Learning to live with less. It really does buy happiness.

It would be inauthentic to blame every instance of bankruptcy on sudden life changes, such as a tragic illness or other life-altering emergency. The truth is, some bankruptcies are preventable.

However, we’re not judging. We know that timing plays a big part.

For example, let’s say one morning that you look at the pile of bills on the counter and say to yourself: “That’s it, I’m changing the way I handle money.” Then, the first thing noticed on your desk at work is a pink slip. That folks, is bad timing. And it explains a lot of personal bankruptcies.

What if you never you had that pile of bills? Maybe, losing your job could be a lot more tolerable, right? Well, that all comes down to learning how to live a more simple life. Sure, it sounds idealistic. But it’s not impossible. And, instead of striving for that new car you have your eye on, how about putting that energy toward ridding yourself of all the things around you that contribute to the reasons you lie awake at night?

The New York Times published a piece on this very topic that cited new research showing that leading a less complicated life leads to a happier life. By the way the majority of our country defines happiness, that means putting less concern on material items and more on life experiences.

The article cites Elizabeth W. Dunn, an associate psychology professor at the University of British Columbia, in which she states on behalf of research conducted by two colleagues, Leaf Van Boven and Thomas Gilovoch, “ ‘It’s better to go on vacation than buy a new couch.’ ”
For most people, extra money soon translates into a usage strategy. “On what can we spend this money?” is so often a topic of conversation around those giddy with the prospect of something shiny and new. Ultimately, the new couch will end up in a landfill or on the driveway as garage sale fodder. Memories of time spent with family on an enjoyable camping trip, however, can’t be sold.

Many also believe that the recession is helping these ideas take hold for the long term. That could bode well for most of America, despite a reeling economy beholden to the concept of consumerism. It’s possible, after some time, that the economy will adjust. And, if our economy is indeed organic enough to self-heal, won’t it adjust accordingly?

Some signs are there. New home sales are down nationwide, perhaps suggesting people are staying put and not upgrading. Credit card debt is at its lowest point in almost a decade. While a large part of that is due to bankruptcies and refusal of credit, it is nevertheless a positive sign.

As it relates to bankruptcy, could a reduction in life-things have prevented so many people filing? Probably. Yet, we are creatures of our surroundings. We adopt and adapt to what those around us are doing, creating an ecosystem based on similar spending habits and material success. Thus, before we knew what was right, we became entrenched in what was wrong. Thus, there is no real reason to blame oneself for wanting a comfortable lifestyle.

Today though, the definition of a comfortable lifestyle might be shifting. If trends continue, how quickly will our country adapt to learning to live with less? It’s a scary topic, to be sure, as so much of what we see, read, hear, do and say is based on the concept of consumerism. If we change our view of such a fundamental component of our daily lives, what will it mean to the country as a whole?

So who wants to find out?

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