Sustainable Happiness

1613947_10152686705175828_1078868374_nAs part of my efforts to restore my health over the last decade I’ve done quite a lot of research into happiness.  I’ve also developed a deep interest in sustainable living and how we cope globally with rising consumption and dwindling resources.  I’ve felt for a long time that the solution has to lie in teaching people to find happiness in simple living, rather than excessive consumption.  I’ve done my own experiment in this by refraining from buying any ‘things’ for close to 200 days now.  I’ve only bought food and household consumables, replacements, material for essential repairs and experiences.  My happiness levels have risen as a result, which at first sight is weird, but I’m putting it down to the lack of psychic weight that we carry around considering ‘what we should buy’ all the time and the quality time I spend not shopping.

Anyway, not buying anything, isn’t going to go down that well with the global population right now, but a recent study seems to offer some hope.  This study looked at thousands of people who’d started therapy and compared them with others who’d had large increases in their income. It turned out that to get the same increase in happiness from $1,300 spent on therapy, a person would have to get a mammoth pay rise of $42,000.  I found this very encouraging, it implied that maybe we could educate future generations in strategies that would significantly increase their life satisfaction as an alternative to consumption.  Maybe if we did this then instead of economic growth we could be satisfied with improved happiness, and employ a lot more counsellors, although those counsellors might need more training in positive psychology.

Through the excellent pain management clinic at Blackpool Victoria Hospital I’ve had the benefit of 12 hours of counselling and I found it excellent, although I know others who approached it with a different attitude who didn’t benefit much.  This study makes me wonder whether regular therapy sessions should be a part of normal life, rather than as a response to acute problems, as they are in some countries.

Although the study itself is behind a pay wall (if anything needed to be open access, it’s studies like this) here’s a nice quote from the lead author, Chris Boyce:

Often the importance of money for improving our well-being and bringing greater happiness is vastly over-valued in our societies.

The benefits of having good mental health, on the other hand, are often not fully appreciated and people do not realise the powerful effect that psychological therapy, such as non-directive counselling, can have on improving our well-being.

The photo today is of a Cleveleys sunset, I guess if you can’t afford therapy a walk along the sea front watching the sunset works pretty well.  I’m going to be there today with my eldest daughter who is home for the weekend.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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