With the onset of new drug therapies to treat depression,
apparently came the increase in cumulative unhappiness. More and more people in industrialized
countries report a lower quality of life.
Interestingly, money has less to do with it that you would think. Subsistence living is no doubt, stressful, although even some people at this level report a general sense of well being. Getting above subsistence living garners the greatest boost in happiness, about a 10 per cent increase in quality of life. After that hump, making more money effects you very little. For example, making twice as much money, i.e. 100 per cent more than you are making now, will make you about three per cent happier.
One theory is that you quickly adjust to your new found wealth. After the initial excitement of buying a newer car, a bigger house, putting your children in a better school â€“ you resituate yourself at the same level. Thirty per cent of your income spent on house, a bigger nicer house no doubt, but housing all the same. Many people making six figures feel they still don't even make enough to save for retirement. There's a depressing thought! So if money isn't the answer to happiness what is?
Step one, would be to enjoy what you have. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Take time, daily to actually reflect on the things you appreciate. Do you have your health? A car that runs? Loved ones? Appliances that work? Skills and abilities? Helpful co-workers? An mentor supervisor? What ever it is, write it down. Taking the trouble to use two senses: thinking and writing, will make the gratitude more real in your mind. Write thank you notes to people who have done something for you or gifted you with something. Not e-card thank you notes, rather handwritten snail mail notes. Studies show mild depression lifting from people who spent a month writing thank you notes. Most of the participants in the study opted to keep writing them afterwards just because they liked it.
Give to the charity of your choice. If money is an issue give time. Is there a child you can tutor? Is there someone in your neighborhood who could use a ride to the store? Do you have clothes your never wear or furniture in storage that someone else could be using? Some hospitals have programs where you can knit or crochet booties for preemies and newborns. Some homeless shelters and battered womens' shelters would be only too happy to receive home made blankets from you. The act of giving not only increases your own happiness, it also increases happiness for the receiver.
Step two, is spend less than you earn. You can still have a car, maybe, buy one that isn't stressing you. Sit down thoughtfully and make decisions regarding your money. Where do you want to be in the future? Does your job lead anywhere? Would you be happy there forever? Is it realistic that you can stay? Having life goals is life affirming. If you need more training or schooling than start planning now where that money will come from. Even if you are in no position to change your life right now, you can do research on line about things you may want to do, or get books to read for free from the public library. If your job is not fulfilling to you, yet it is necessary to pay your bills, look elsewhere to fill your creative needs. Take up a hobby or interest within your budget that reflects your self expression.
Step three, be a life long learner. If you enjoy music take up an instrument, take singing lessons or an opera appreciation class. If you have no money for classes, learn something from your supervisor at work, make it clear you like to learn. Go to the library and see what appeals to you: motorcycles? Clay? Calligraphy? Mathematics? People who use their brains have more satisfying lives than passive personalities. No matter what else happens to you, no one can tell you what to think. Cultivating a curious, positive personality will no doubt help you to regroup better after a crises or loss.
Step four, love and being loving. If you are single you can still love people you meet, or adopt an animal or make friends with a lonely child or volunteer at church. You have no control over who loves you, you have every control over whom you chose to love. Heart attack victims with a dog at home recuperate faster than any other group, when compared to married and single dog owners and non dog owners. Why? The non-judgmental love that dogs have for their owners is healing and healthy in itself. If you are a generous hearted charitable person who sees the best in people, chances are you will make friends where ever you go. This isn't the same as being co-dependent. This is about being kind and compassionate. Although having authentic friends certainly does much to make a person happy. We are social animals and we do best in society if that society is not menacing or fake.
Step five, take care of yourself. Take pride in keeping your body well rested and well fed. Eliminate stress that is under your control to eliminate. Stop over booking your life. Make no apologies for your need to replenish yourself. If that requires time to meditate or do yoga or pray, so be it. No matter how many kids, bills or dogs you have, you can make yourself a priority. Eat food you like that is good for you. Read uplifting books, watch movies that entertain you, take time to hear live music. Vaya con Dios.