Saturday, July 2, 2011

What do you choose to make yourself happy?

Recently, a friend of mine told me that she really needed to get out of town and spend a few nights at a five start hotel to unwind. She planned on renting a car, taking a long trip to see the sights, eating fabulous meals, drinking very expensive wine, and just relax.

I asked her how much she much she thought she’d be spending on this trip and she told me about three thousand dollars, which roughly comes out to about $750 a day. But she qualified this by adding that she had been working hard and she deserved to treat herself a little. She says that she tries to do this about once every three months as part of her “self maintenance program.”

Now, two things immediately stood out about her trip. The first is that she said that she “really needed” this trip. The second was that she deserved it. The cost made my head spin, but it was how she defined her needs and her deserving nature that really puzzled me.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve listened to people tell me of their needs or what they felt they are entitled to. I have mediated over more than a few divorces that bring out the worst in people when it comes to their rights about money, property and the like. It is an adversarial process and I understand, in that context, why folks get so caught up in themselves.

But to feel you deserve to spend that much money on yourself in such short period of time for such a distinct degree of self indulgence seems, actually, a little counterproductive. I would submit that when she comes back from her trip, she is going to feel just as stressed and overwhelmed as she was before she left in a matter of days. She will be trying to find more relief shortly, and probably once again discover that her ways to relax just don’t work.

The field of Positive Psychology did a study that wanted to find out what made people happy. They had two groups: One that did what they would normally do in order to find happiness, whether it was going on vacation or seeing a ballgame or something, and the other group was to give of their time and service to somebody in need to make that person feel happy. Guess what the results showed? The second group, the ones that were told to give of themselves to another person, responded as being more fulfilled, content, and happy than the first group in every single test.

I suggested to my friend that if she really wanted to feel better, there was a homeless women’s shelter on her way to the airport. She would also pass schools, hospitals, day care centers and nursing homes, all in need of help, all in need of a little support, a little time, and a little love. And the money in her purse wouldn’t hurt, either. I’m certain that it would add a great deal of joy to whomever she decided to share it with.

I don’t know what my friend ultimately did. But I know what I would choose if I truly wanted to further my own sense of happiness and contentment. And I hope each and every one of you would choose the same thing…

1 comment:

  1. I beg to differ.

    Perhaps this lady indeed works very hard, and truly needs the break. Perhaps her very rewarding job gives her that much flexibility to spend. Perhaps her doctor has advised her to chill out periodically; for health-related reasons.

    Perhaps she already is into charity, but does not want to make announcements about it. (My own noble father gave a lot to charity, but didn’t like to talk about it.)

    Many possibilities…. And many different approaches to life…