5 Ways to be Happier in the Recession
How to Be Happy in a Recession
The Great Recession has impacted millions of Americans. Here are some tips for not just surviving, but thriving, in the midst of an economic downturn. Rather than just hanging on, you can actually become happier. By embracing what really matters, you can find joy in spite of your circumstances.
Redefine needs and wants.By way of example, the recession has nearly devastated a woman named Lisa. Her once lucrative commission-only job no longer earned her a living, so she tried several others, with little success. She had to declare bankruptcy, but managed to keep the townhouse she’d bought in better times. Every month is struggle. She complains that life will never be like it was, that she’s barely making ends meet, and she’s behind on her utilities, and typically pays her mortgage late. An advisor suggested to her that she find a roommate to share the expense of her two-bedroom townhouse, but she said she couldn’t, or wouldn’t. “I need my space,” she declared. It makes one wonder what other needs and wants she’d confused.
- Surviving the recession requires redefining needs and wants. This does not simply mean asking whether you “need” another pair of high heels or a new phone (if you’re wondering, you don’t). You may have to consider whether things like “my space” is actually a need, or just a want. If Lisa took in a roommate, she would cut her living expenses in half. Sure, it’s not always easy living with another person, but if you find the right person, this move will actually help you do the next thing on our list: move toward others.
Move toward people, not away:If you are feeling vulnerable financially, you may not want to admit it to friends—it often feels like failure. In the midst of the storm, you want to hunker down, alone, and ride it out. In a natural disaster, people help each other survive. The same is true in weathering an economic storm. Reach out to others. They can also give you advice, can help you cope simply by listening, maybe even bring you a meal. Get involved with your local house of worship, where you may be able to access support groups, even find financial assistance or a food pantry. “We are also realizing that our neighbors matter, and that our well-being is connected to theirs,” Jim Wallis, in his book Rediscovering Values, writes about the recession. “Competing with the Joneses could be replaced with make sure that the Joneses are okay.” (p. 105) When we move toward people, we gain their support, we see we’re in this together, but also realize that our situation could be worse. It provides perspective, which can help us to take the next step to thrive in a recession: generosity.
Be generous to people with less than you:It seems counter-intuitive, but being generous actually brings you joy. It’s not how much you give, but the fact you do that transforms your attitude. If you really don’t have any extra money to give—could you give of your time? Spend a little time tutoring inner-city kids or serving in a soup kitchen, or making dinner for a neighbor who’s lost their job. Doing small things for someone else can help you to feel productive, and bring you joy. Our family income has been cut by more than half by the economic crisis. But I’ve continued to serve breakfast at a homeless shelter. That generosity brings me joy.
- By providing charity to the neediest you will see different perspective on your own relative “wealth” and “poverty.” Even if you have been impacted by the recession, you can always find someone who is worse off. Helping them, even in some small way, is actually the key to our economic recovery—not because of the economic impact of our generosity has on them, but the moral impact our generosity has on us.
- Wallis writes: “Lying beneath the economic measure of the market is a moral deficit that is increasingly apparent… To make sure we do not simply repeat the mistakes of the past that led to this crisis, our economic recession must also be answered with a moral recovery.”
Be grateful:A recent article in the Chicago Tribune pointed out that ending your day by listing “three good things” you were grateful for actually boosted your happiness level. Start or end your day with the simple exercise of listing three things you are grateful for: even simple necessities like a bed to sleep in or a roof over your head, a friend or a spouse. Just stopping to count your blessings will help you to be happy, and that happiness can help you not only survive, but thrive, during this economic storm.
Sources and Citations
- Jim Wallis. Rediscovering Values: On Wall Street, Main Street and Your Street. New York: Howard Books, 2010.
- Chicago Tribune Magazine article, "Happiness, Meet Science," April 12, 2011 By Nara Schoenberg
- Wallis page 8.
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