Did you have a nice summer with lots of fun and interesting experiences? Perhaps you went on special family outings or even on a vacation? If so, you have collected beautiful memories. If so, you have also intuitively made the perfect choice for happiness and to recharge your emotional tank.
Spiritual teachers, philosophers and scientists have been striving to answer the question “What is happiness?” for a long time and in different ways. I have previously written about the happiness formula.
H = S + C + V
Happiness = the Set Point in the Brain + the Conditions of Living + our Voluntary Choices
Depression and anxiety are almost epidemics today, and peace, joy and happiness seem more elusive than ever. Why is that?
Are we perhaps focusing too much on the conditions, the relative facts of our life? Do we allow those relative conditions to prevent us from choosing happiness and fully experiencing it? What if instead of living from the outside in, we chose to live from the inside out?
Living from the inside out means taking charge of our mind and using it to our advantage. It includes examining our beliefs and changing the ones which do not serve us. We have the birth right to be happy. Our Good is constantly flowing and waiting to be received by us. Our beliefs are merely the impressions we have bought into. Our beliefs create our experience.
What shows up is just the out-picturing of the way we have been picturing things inside, the way we have been using our mind. When we use our mind differently, the out-picturing will inevitably be different. That does not mean to ignore the conditions but to realize that they only determine 10% of our happiness while our beliefs and mind set determine 50% and our voluntary choices 40%.
We overcome negative conditions by changing our mind to create better conditions. We need to choose to be grateful and happy, independent of what shows up around us. We need to make voluntary choices which increase our level of joy. Voluntary Choices are those choices we make for pleasure or for fulfillment.
Psychology Professor Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University has studied the subject of happiness and concludes that happiness is derived from experiences, not things.
“People often think spending money on an experience is not as wise an investment as spending it on a material possession. They think the experience will come and go in a flash, and they’ll be left with little compared to owning an item. But in reality we remember experiences long afterward, while we soon become used to our possessions. At the same time, we also enjoy the anticipation of having an experience more than the anticipation of owning a possession.” (Gilovich)
A get-away or other experience allows you to enjoy it in three different ways: the anticipation, the experience itself and remembering it in retrospect. Every moment spent on picturing it and reliving it brings up heartfelt feelings of joy and happiness again.
Furthermore, experiences with family and friends are like glue to our social lives. Experiences allow us to get closer to others in ways a material possession cannot. And ultimately, as human beings, we all long to be close to others.
Material possessions on the other hand give us less lasting joy. After we have acquired those inanimate objects, it is only a question of time until we get used to them. New things might be exciting at first, but then we adapt to having them.
Gilovich has also studied how we tend to have more regrets over missed interactions with others and missed experiences than over possessions we have not acquired. On our death bed, we might regret not to have connected more deeply with our children or other loved ones, but we won’t regret not having purchased the new car or newest TV.
As a society, we need to ask ourselves how to live more from the inside out, how to choose beliefs and activities that support joy and happiness. Social experiences and helping others lead to attention, affection and appreciation, and therefore to greater happiness and joy.
So next time you have the choice of whether to spend your money on a material possession or on an experience, especially if that experience involves connecting with or helping others, remember that the experience will enhance and make your life richer than the material possession.
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