Americans should be happy right? We have lots of cool gadgets, big houses, and cars. It turns out shopping for happiness isn't working out very well. In 2009, the United States was rated 114th out of 143 countries evaluated on the Happy Planet Index. The Happy Planet Index "looks at how happy a country is compared with how many resources it uses." Americans use a lot of resources but aren't very happy.
On an individual level, I think people are more likely to find happiness by living a simpler lifestyle, letting go of fear, and creating time to pursue passions. Below are a few tips to get you started.
1. Discover your passion and turn away from fear.
The dividing line is between those who do something and those who do nothing. ~Derrick Jensen
Figure out what turns you on and do something. For example that something might be working on social justice issues, helping the homeless in your city or reducing plastic and fossil fuel waste. Life is about more than money and self imposed limitations. We all need to let go of fear.
The key to finding happiness is discovering your passion and turning away from fear. Don't listen to the naysayers and dream zappers. You can pursue your dreams. By turning away from fear you will become empowered and find purpose in your life by starting to help your loved ones and the places you care about. Only then will you find true happiness.
Mirco-actions: Set aside a few hours and start mind-mapping. Consider answering some of these questions:
- What goals are your life goals?
- What turns you on? What are your passions?
- What activities make your skin crawl?
- What brings you a sense of accomplishment?
- What are your life values? Are you living by your values?
2. Create time to figure out what you really love.
If you constantly run from meeting to meeting and have your evenings and weekends packed with events, it's time to start saying "no". Say "no" to extra obligations. Instead use that time to figure out what you really love.
Living a simpler lifestyle will give you the time and freedom to cultivate your interests. Don't fall into the trap of doing what everyone else does. You don't have to watch 5 hours of T.V. everyday or work in a cubicle to earn a pension. There are options. However, it's essential to make time to figure out what those options are. Ignoring your unhappiness and walking through life as a human robot is not a solution.
Micro-actions: Set time aside everyday to work on your true passions. Pour yourself into a project of your choice, even if you only have a half an hour everyday. (Do this instead of watching T.V.)
3. Say no to conspicuous consumption.
Get off the work-watch-spend treadmill. And say no to conspicuous consumption.
You don't have to trade your time or money for a "cool" identity, a car or a big house. Trading your time and money for manufactured stuff is more likely to result in higher levels of debt rather than happiness.
Micro-actions: Think about your daily life. What are your consumption, work, sleeping and eating patterns like? Are you making conscious decisions about these areas of your life or just going through the motions?