When we boil down this Financial Independence stuff, isn’t it simply about being more happy and content with life? We are striving for some level of security in this world, the ability to provide for our families and have a little fun along the way. At one extreme there is abject poverty or what I like to call hell on Earth. Failed states, corruption, poverty, no opportunities, dangerous environment, disease, etc. Life is short and brutal, and this is very sadly a reality for many Billions on the planet. Kind of hard to strive for any kind of happiness in this situation.
If you are reading our blog you are most likely well past all this. You live in a modern society with the rule of law, roads, jobs, an economy, property rights and some semblance of a functioning government. This is the secret sauce that lifts a society out of abject poverty and chaos and into something that works better for all.
Now, let’s say you live in this modern society and have a shot at some kind of lasting happiness and financial security. You have secured gainful employment. Now what?
We talk a lot about the financial and health habits that can take you to the next level of existence, but what can we do specifically in the realm of happiness? Here are 5 ideas:
1. Do nothing for a minute, Stop trying to achieve the next thing for a moment
I know this sounds crazy for people interested in personal finance and financial independence. We are supposed to be always focused on the next goal post, stock gain, savings goal or investment vehicle. But, maybe we need to stop sometimes and do nothing. Just be. Just breathe and look around. According to studies our frantic pace to the next action or to do item is seriously depleting our happiness and contentment. Take some time to just be with your children without an agenda, sit outside and look around, take a breath wherever you are and just experience the moment.
A related element here is that it has been proven that multitasking does not help us accomplish more, it actually keeps us from doing any one thing well.
2. Take a break from screen time
We are flat out addicted to digital media and screens. This will come to haunt us in the future unless we get it under control. And it is proven that people who spend more time on social media and on devices are on average less happy and content. Remember the makers of these devices, apps, social media platforms are designing all these things to be addictive. I believe they are especially dangerous for kids and we are going to see a spike in attention deficit disorder and other avoidable problems in kids as a result. This will cost the country billions in lost productivity and healthcare costs to address. All because parents could not set guidelines and defend their children against an emerging environmental threat.
I encourage you to spend some time away from screens. It may help a person re balance and gain a new sense of happiness.
3. Meditation, Breathing, etc.
The research is clear, meditation has enormous positive health affects on people. And I think people are overthinking it. You don’t need a 90 minute session in a Buddhist monastery to reap some benefits. Just 5 minutes a day in any place at any time can help. It is the simple act of sitting, breathing and allowing your thought to come back to your breath. Meditation is about becoming present in the moment. Research suggests that living in the moment and paying attention to your senses can create a sense of happiness regardless of what is happening.
4. A Cherished Activity
Studies show that we are very happy when we are engrossed in an activity that we enjoy and stimulates our mind in healthy ways. Discover your joyful activity, the possibilities are endless. Swimming, hiking, cards, games, art, painting, drawing, reading, helping others, volunteering to a cause you believe in, writing, etc. etc. Find your project not because it will make you money or make you famous, but because it is something you enjoy doing.
As many of you may know I am an illustrator and painter. I have also made a children’s book that introduces children to Shakespeare and plays. Beyond time with friends and family, working on these artistic endeavors brings me great joy throughout the process. I also like the sense of making something for a broader audience, we are not much without a community to share in.
5. Just Smile
When a person feels a bit down, apparently the mere act of smiling can cheer a person up. This reminds me of “laughter yoga”. It is like the old saying “fake it until you make it.” When people do laughter yoga, they start out in a big group doing fake play laughter. But it looks so ridiculous that by the time you get into it, you are actually laughing really hard and releasing all those feel good chemicals.
Happiness is not something that happens to you, it is a practice
The overall point here is to not forget that happiness is not truly tied to wealth and money. Yes, we need to achieve a certain point of meeting basic needs in order to truly enjoy life. Many studies show that beyond a salary of about $70,000 a year, not one dollar after that will bring more happiness. But beyond this many factors are within our control and happiness becomes a skill to practice and harness. Skills have certain practices that make us better at the particular skill. So do not think about happiness as something that will happen to you, it is a mindset and a skill that can be improved over time.