"Overindulgence and excess beyond Your ability, or what Your body or financial situation can handle is not rational."
Falling for Holiday Hype Won't Make You More Happy
Everyone buckle up, the winter holidays are rushing towards us, and we are once more being taken for a circular carousel ride amidst a breathtaking whirl of flashing lights and music. Technology is changing so fast with tablets, cell phones, more memory for more apps, 3D, and the quest for faster, more colorful.
Playing on the very realistic truth and fear by consumers of something being outdated within weeks of purchase is reflected in the Best Buy Commercial (shown below) where a woman, upon hearing a presenter saying, " ... everything else is obsolete", cries out in anguish, "But I just bought this one!" Best Buy claims "We feel your pain" and they and a few other stores are introducing "Buy Back" programs, planning to bank big on this syndrome, of course you have to pay extra to belong to such a program, before getting only a portion of the value credited to your new purchase.
Like the extreme lottery winners soon find out, having all the money and most up-to-date "toys" you can want, does not make you happier. While before, perhaps just earning the money for a new car would have been satisfactory, suddenly being able to purchase six cars feels empty. The truth is, you adapt to what you have, and the more wealth and material possessions you accumulate eventually you take it all for granted as you adapt to the idea of money being no object.
So much for having it all. So what does make people happy?
"In the United States, the very poor are lower in happiness but, once a person is just barely comfortable, added money adds little or no happiness. Even the fabulously rich -- the Forbes 100, with an average of over 12.5 million dollars -- are only slightly happier than the average American" [p. 53 Authentic Happiness, Seligman]
Neither apparently, does being good looking or living on a beautiful tropical island. Glitzy magazines and television have a lot more to do with our perceptions of the rich, beautiful and famous having a more glamorous life, but the reality is the glamor often hides the real life doubts, problems, and pains of an ordinary life behind the scenes not photographed as evidenced by financial, personal and family problems.
A scientific study was conducted by Robert Biswas-Diener as he traveled across the world through some of the poorest areas. Based on the results of interviewing 31 prostitutes and street dwellers in Calcutta, India, and 78 homeless in Modesto, California, he found that while overall life satisfaction on the streets of Calcutta is slightly negative (1.93 on a scale of 1-3), in many areas of their life, satisfaction is high: morality (2.56), family (2.50), friends (2.40), and food (2.55).
While you might think the well-being of the homeless in America would be better, the differences actually favor India. Among the 78 street people in Modesto, CA, the average life satisfaction is extremely low (1.29), markedly lower than the Calcutta street dwellers (1.60). There are a few areas where the satisfaction is moderate, such as intelligence (2.27) and food (2.14); but most are "distressingly unsatisfactory" - income (1.15), morality (1.96), friends (1.75), and housing (1.37). [pp. 53-55 Authentic Happiness, Seligman].
While people living in poverty have a worse sense of well-being than the more fortunate, even amidst great adversity, poorer people can find much of their lives satisfying. Once basic needs are met, the important things that make people happy, the things that even the poorest in Calcutta, India may know and Americans may have forgotten, is what the Greek philosophers taught, and is making a comeback through Rational Hedonism. The quality of one's life is really about a strong personal belief system, creating your own pleasant environment, and surrounding yourself with those you love who care about and support you (a rich social network, whether friends or family).
Happiness and life satisfaction is not really affected by more money and more things once you are comfortable. More materialistic people are not happier, because they can never be satisfied. The more, the better you have, you adapt, then want something else. It may actually be more difficult for Americans to find real happiness, being bombarded from never-ending hints from media of what we should expect, how we should look, what we could have, how to file a lawsuit or get a loan or trade in what we have to get better.
Muting ads between television shows is pleasantly ... quiet.
Turning off the background chatter of television until a program you actually want to watch is even better.
As for the breath-taking and rapid technological changes, Time Out. As with anything, buy what you like and/or need if you can afford it, and then ... simply enjoy it. Do NOT compare it with what other people have. If you just bought the last model, or the one before that, does the newest really have that many newer features you must have? The one you just bought is the one that just a week ago was the one you were proud and pleased to have, and still has (nearly) the best features you wanted. It still does what you bought it for.
You aren't going to win the always-have-the-most-up-to-date in the technology world. Before you can get all your old stuff transferred and learn to navigate, something else will come along. Don't be a part of that never ending carousel and enjoy what you have, and by the time it's worn out, you'll be back into the market for the newest, new thing. An example is the evolution of the cell phone. It's come a long way from just having a simple, portable means of communcation. Now they have GPS, we watch movies, surf the net, shop and do our banking and credit card transactions on them. The latest (at the time of this writing) phones talk and suggest things to us.
In the midst of the flurry of holiday gotta-haves, a Rational Hedonist focuses on his/her own wants and needs, NOT being a part of "herd" mentality or insecure comparing to others; freeing their mind from worry and negative thinking; looking around and finding happiness with his/her surroundings - an imaginative or calming environment they love to live in, reflective of their personality; developing close relationships with those they chose to surround themselves; enjoying and recording any number of beautiful, wonderful moments of the season; good food; and knowing in his/her heart what truly makes them happy, probably something small and with personal meaning, or it may not be any physical thing at all. (Hint: And it probably isn't what the media is is trying to sell).
"He who dies with the most toys, wins" ?
The truth is:
"He who dies with the most toys, still dies"
You can't take it with you.
Enjoy what you have.
G.K. is currently the official Spokesman representing Rational Hedonism online; an Ordained Celebrant (not "celibate"!) with R.H. and conducts or advises others with Weddings, Civil Unions, Remembrance Ceremonies (both people and pets), Adoption and Naming Ceremonies; and conducts "Garden" Parties for Rational Hedonists throughout the United States.