We’ve all gone looking for happiness at some point and found it, only to feel it drift away again. Economist Richard Easterlin talks about the hamster wheel of the modern age, and found an explanation for this phenomenon in a study he conducted. Easterlin asked Americans which possessions they had and which they felt they were lacking in order to fulfil the ideal of a good life: a house, a car, a TV, overseas travel, a swimming pool, a holiday home, etc. Sixteen years later, he asked the same question again, and discovered an interesting constant. As young people, the interviewees had an average of 1.7 of the listed possessions, and felt 4.4 possessions would make them happy. By the second time around, they’d accumulated 3.1 possessions, but they now felt they needed 5.6 to be happy – still two more than they currently had. “Our attempts to live well are today governed by a logic of expansion, in which happiness is the frequency, rather than the intensity, of pleasant moments. Those who only look for the best can waste their entire lives trying to find it,” says social psychologist Daniel Gilbert. He believes a radically simplified life is the best way to be happy in a multi-option society.
WHY DISCONTENTMENT CAN MAKE US SICK
We all know accumulating money and stuff doesn’t necessarily make us happier. A relatively unknown fact, however, is that striving for more possessions can reduce our state of wellbeing