Is Wealth A Burden?

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I read an interesting article in Vanity Fair magazine the other day about Perfection Anxiety, and it discussed how extreme wealth may actually be a burden. The article proposes that when money is limitless, it ceases to make one happy. We’ve all fantasized about winning the lottery, (I know I have) and becoming rich beyond our wildest imaginations. Rich enough to quit our 9 to 5ers, rich enough to buy that expensive sports car or take your friends to a fancy dinner….every night. What if this fantasy was just that, and if extreme wealth was really a burden?

Statistics show that money does make you happier, but only up to about $50,000/year. After that, the more money you have, the less it matters. Think of it this way, if you gave a starving man a cheeseburger, that one cheeseburger would make him really happy. If you gave a starving man 2 cheeseburgers, the second probably wouldn’t make him as happy as the first, but it may make him a little bit happier in comparison to how happy he felt after the first one. If you gave a starving man 8 cheeseburgers, he would not feel 8 times happier than he did after the first one. It’s the same with money. Money can give you the things that you need and want, and this will make you happier, however only to a certain extent.

            The Vanity Fair article explains that when one has too much money, it “stops working” to make you happier. I wrote a post about happiness and how we don’t just want to experience happiness, but we also want to achieve it. In fact, in order to feel truly happy, we must also experience sadness in contrast. Think of how happy and excited you feel when you buy something you’ve been lusting after for a while, something you’ve saved up for. Think of how grateful we feel when a loved one buys us a present we’ve really wanted for a long time; that high you get when you get that new iPhone or super nice yoga mat. Now, imagine you could buy anything you wanted, always and forever, and suddenly that excitement, anticipation, gratitude is lost. It’s important to have goals, things we can’t yet attain, because we feel a sense of pleasure in working towards these goals and then a sense of accomplishment when we reach a goal.

If you are among the extremely wealthy, I’m sorry. Let me know if I’ve gotten it wrong. If you are not among the extremely wealthy, you get to take this moment to be grateful that you can still derive pleasure from things. We get to feel grateful that we have things to work for, presents to give, and get, and we can still derive simple pleasure from saving up for a special treat. And remember, winning the lottery probably won’t solve your problems, so enjoy the moment : ) Happy Weekend!

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Happy Weekend!

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I’m finally in the final stretch of graduate school and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. However, what this also means is that I am constantly inundated with responsibilities, deadlines, meetings and class. Busy is not a glamorous lifestyle. One thing that I do when I am stressed is eat. lots of carbs. and lots of sweets. I read a quote that directed the reader to “love yourself” as you are eating, and I thought that this intention could completely shift my stress eating. What else could we change if we brought love to the forefront of our intentions? Love yourself as you eat. Love your husband/child/mother when you tell them goodbye as you rush off to work. Love for yoga as you roll out your mat. Love for yourself as you move through your asanas. Love for your town as you take an afternoon walk. Love for mornings as you sip your coffee. Do all things with love. This is not an easy practice. It’s something we must work on, constantly, forever. Try to do all things with love for one day, even just for one morning and see what happens. Or, try to do all things with love for one yoga class. Happy Weekend : )

The Importance Of Relationships

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Many years ago, during our graduation from UC Santa Barbara

 

I just got through visiting some of my favorite people in the world: my best friends from college, one of which just got engaged and is taking the leap of faith to open her own business in San Francisco! Woo hoo! Spending time with my friends from college always reminds me of the importance of relationships, because regardless of how much time has passed, I always feel close and connected with them. We always have things to talk about. I feel comfortable, and spending time with them feels natural. We understand each other’s personalities, nuances, neuroses, and we love one another more for them. All of my friends from college have strong personalities. We are all characters, and yet we all love and appreciate each other for that clear, strong personality. At one point in college we all lived in a house together, saw each other everyday, showered in the same shower, got ready in the same bathroom together before going out for the night, watched all of our favorite television shows together. It was great (except for times when the toilette paper ran out), and while I love having my own house, and my own space am I happier?

     In high school, I knew a couple girls who lived on a commune. Just two families, with a shared kitchen and living room. Each family had their own buildings for bedrooms and I thought this was an ideal. In college I would talk longingly about living on a commune someday with my “soulmate friends”.  Now, I don’t even live in the same town. Some of my “grown up” dreams include owning my own home someday; having a space to call my own. Isn’t this the American dream? As we make more money, we separate ourselves even more. Dorms become apartments. Apartments become homes. Homes become estates. As an individualistic society, have we forgotten about the importance of relationships? Are we not a social species, wired for human connection, wired to need to feel part of some social whole? I often walk around Costco on a Saturday and think “I hate people” as I look around weaving around an oblivious family who is moving at molasses speed, dodging the screaming child and employees pushing samples of some overly processed, finger food. But seriously, after spending a day with a group of friends, exchanging updates about our present life, talking about music, drinking wine, and trading info about common interests, I felt energized, renewed, part of the group of my favorite people in the world and proud to be included in that social circle.

In the Geography of Bliss, the author poses the argument that “about 70 percent of our happiness stems from our relationships, both quantity and quality, with friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors. During life’s difficult patches, camaraderie blunts our misery; during the good times, it boosts our happiness.

            So the greatest source of happiness is other people-and what does money do? It isolates us from other people. It enables us to build walls literal and figurative, around ourselves.”

Like it or not, our society appears to be heading in the direction towards further isolation where phone calls are replaced by texts, college class is replaced by online learning, and social circles are dictated by Facebook. We can’t let ourselves slip into this online, disengaged society. LOL doesn’t replace laughing until you cry. Posting a status update on Facebook does not give you the same release as venting to a friend, or sharing a special accomplishment with someone face to face, watching their excitement at learning of your accomplishments. We are hardwired to require human contact, social experiences, touch; we need to feel part of a group of people. We need to feel accepted, included, valued, and relationships are the only true way to meet these needs. Schedule in time for friends and loved ones. If 70% of our happiness truly does come from our relationships, I’d say that we greatly under prioritize social hour. Call a friend, meet up for drinks. Fit in social time any way you can.