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Monday, August 26, 2013

Can material things make you really happy?

Started reading "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin, the same author of "The Happiness Project".

I was able to read a few chapters and here are some of the things I highlighted (in italics) and my key takeaways.
  • It's very important to have personal goals.  William Butler Yeats wrote, “Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.” Research supports his observation: It’s not goal attainment, but the process of striving after goals—that is, growth—that brings happiness. 
  • Though some research suggest that buying experiences brings more happiness than buying possessions, Rubin points out that it isn't always easy to draw the line between possessions and experience.  For example, a camera is a possession but a camera helps preserve happy memories.  Good point.  I won't argue with that since I love to take photos. Haha...
  • I've read books, articles and quotes on simple living and minimalism in the past and I think how Rubin puts it, strikes a good balance between having too little that you feel deprived and having too much that you feel guilty of being materialistic.  She explains that it isn't in the amount of stuff that we have but it is all about the engagement with that stuff.    The key is to get rid of things you own and don't use, and keep those that matter to you and you use.  I've been trying to practice this philosophy for a couple of years now combined with the "One in, one out" rule so my stuff doesn't accumulate. I have lesser things now compared to before and I make sure that if I have multiple stocks of one item (e.g. pairs of shoes), I rotate them so all of them are used.  I still occasionally backslide but hopefully, I'll get there. :)    
  • Some people are happy to own a few possessions; some are happy even if they own almost nothing. For Rubin, possessions, if wisely chosen are a boon to happiness so she tries to carefully select her possessions.  She says, If I don’t want something, getting it won’t make me happy. I don’t love listening to music, so getting a superb set of earphones won’t add to my happiness.   This is a nice, quick self-check guide the next time you plan on purchasing something. 
  • There’s no one right way to happiness, but only the way that’s right for a particular person—which is why mindfulness matters so much to happiness. To be happier, I (Rubin) have to notice what I’m doing, and why, and how it makes me feel. Research suggests that mindful people tend to be happier, are more likely to feel self-confident and grateful and less likely to feel anxious or depressed, and have heightened self-knowledge.  An even more interesting aspect of the study is the fact that one subset of people denied the importance of possessions. They insisted that things weren’t important to them, only people were important to them—but, in fact, they turned out to be the most lonely, isolated group. It just doesn’t seem to be true that valuing possessions means you don’t value people.”  Thus, the path to happiness is a case-to-case basis.  We have to be mindful and be honest with ourselves on what really makes us happy.  And if we realize that there are certain material things and possessions that make us happy, it's ok to acknowledge and admit it - provided of course, we could afford them.  :)  

Lastly, I like what Rubin said - happiness is not having less; happiness is not having more; happiness is wanting what I have.  

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