“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for – in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” — Ellen Goodman
In Singapore and pretty much every other urban city, competition is rife. Everywhere you look, you see people who’re doing well in life; holding cushy jobs, financially stable and affording luxurious goods. We can’t help but be envious of these people. Human nature hits.
But the truth is, not everyone can have it all. Life is unfair. Only a minority are super rich while the rest, not so. However, growing up in a bustling city environment with substantial social media influence, it can be difficult to ignore what others may have and initiate comparisons.
Keeping up with the Joneses, as the phrase is popularly known, keeps us on our toes and our heads buried deep into our work. Everything we do is driven (at least in part) by the desire to get that prestigious job, achieve that job promotion, and earn more money so that we can show others how successful we’re by living the “dream” life.
Sadly, our obsession with material possessions and incorrect life goals of needing to be successful to buy things we don’t need to impress others, often made us lose sight of the things and people that truly matter until we become emotionally and spiritually empty. Most ironically in today’s world of chasing riches, many of the things that make us happy are free and invaluable.
Here’s what the psychological science says about true human happiness, which money cannot buy:
Good, Genuine, and Healthy Relationships
It’s not the quantity, but quality of the people and the relationships you put yourself in.
Humans need humans. We need love. We crave to be loved and to love. We need social interactions and to develop strong emotional bonds with people who matter to us.
In the impressive 75-year-long Grant and Glueck study on healthy ageing, the researchers came away with one major finding: good relationships keep us healthier and happier. People who were closer to their family, friends, or community tend to be healthier and happier than their less social counterparts.
The value of relationships can never be measured by money. Unfortunately, we think that by spending money on people make them stay in our lives. That isn’t the case. A strong bond has to be established for people to want to continue spending time and effort in relationships. Instead of using money to manipulate others, it’s time to spend time, have meaningful conversations and develop strong relationships with those that matter.
When people are on their deathbeds, it’s not about how rich they’re or what they’ve accomplished. It’s about WHO they have shared their lives with.
Smiling has plenty of benefits. It’s free. And it’s beautiful.
Smiling is an act of kindness. An expression. Every smile is unique and a definition of YOU. We smile without giving much thought. When we see someone doing nice things for another, we smile. When we’re with the people we love, we smile. When we’re grateful, we smile. There’re indeed many things to smile about.
Smiling is a very natural gift that shares our happiness with others. Across a wide range of psychological experiments, people who were made to smile felt less stressed, perceived things around them to be funnier, and had happier moods.
Smiling actually makes you happy; no matter what mood you’re in. Choosing to smile during an unpleasant situation can help your mind look at the situation positively. The brain in turn releases endorphins which lowers stress and improves your overall mood, hence making the situation pleasant.
In another 2012 study, people who received a smile from strangers felt a greater sense of social connection. Who doesn’t want to feel socially accepted and connected? Not to mention those “knowing smiles” you share with your best friends after an inside joke, the epitome of connectedness. The more you grin, the more joy you’ll feel, so go on and flash those pearly whites.
Your Contagious Laughter
Laughter is powerful, full of positive hype and energy. It brings out the best in us.
American author Mary H. Waldrip once said, “a laugh is a smile that bursts.” We often feel at our absolute best when we’re in the middle of a belly-aching fit of rapturous laughter.
Laughter creates precious memories of love, fun and joyous times. Everyone loves a good time, especially those occupied with laughter. The more you laugh with others, the stronger your relationships are, emotionally and mentally.
Laughing also has incredible health benefits and studies show that laughing can boost our memory and reduce stress. The giggles easily look great on anyone (and they probably cost less than that designer shirt).
As children, we smile and laugh uncontrollably. People were probably trying to make us laugh all the time. When we get older, laughter seems to happen infrequently.
Laughter happens within us. We have the power to enhance our relationships, heal our physical and emotional health and find happiness.
Best of all, this priceless gift is fun, free, and easy to use.
Your Warm Embrace
When was the last time you hugged someone?
Psychotherapist Virginia Satir famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.” There’s nothing quite like a warm embrace from someone you care about.
But aside from making us feel protected and loved, this touching gesture can do a lot more for our health.
Research has shown that hugs can make us feel good, lower your blood pressure, acts as a natural stress reliever and many more.
We don’t express our true thoughts and actions until something goes wrong. Not everything comes with a second chance. So use your ability to do something nice for someone you love; hug them and tell them you love them.
Hugs are a way of expressing your love and affection for someone else physically. They’re comfortable, warm and make us feel wonderful. So what’re you waiting for? Hug someone you love today!
The best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it. Students and adults these days are sleep deprived.
It’s not surprising that the culture we live in regards sleep with little significance. It may not be a big deal when we were younger, but as we get older, our bodies may not be able to take it physically. Despite measures of proven benefits of getting substantial rest, we’re still exhausted and restless.
Many of us live our lives with a false sense of urgency. We feel that we cannot “lose” time. Rest comes later. And later never comes. When we live in a world that revolves heavily around technology, we are available anytime, anywhere. We’re surrounded with infinite information and the ability to communicate with anyone.
The world doesn’t stop for anyone. And with the possibility to make money every hour of the day, rest is underappreciated. We’re willing to sacrifice our health for the sake of making more money. However, money is never enough.
The body and brain suffers dramatically when it does not have the chance to rest and restore itself. It’s only when you choose to take care and prioritise you, then can you have the ability to create and make each day the way you want it to be.
An excited puppy. The company of your loved ones. A rewarding volunteer experience. Laying on the grass under a night sky full of stars. As described by Amit Sood, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, happiness is more about being on a journey and experiencing life than holding on to or acquiring more material possessions.
When we choose to live in the moment, in the present, aware and mindful of who and where we’re, we’re living.
Indeed, joy can be found in the present moment or felt in our overall experiences. But most importantly, when we live mindfully, we’re in the process of creating, connecting, and caring.
In the beginning, it may be a struggle for those who’ve packed schedules and live everyday in a hurry. However, choosing to start living mindfully can present its long-term benefits of helping you achieve your goals and live a fulfilling life.
When we’re focus on what life is presenting to us now, with no worries of the future or distractions of the past, we’re truly enjoying life to the fullest. This way, you can ensure to do anything and everything with more concentration and efficiency. Because nothing can get in your way. Even the simplest things such as eating a meal, when done mindfully, allows you to enjoy your food more.
This isn’t an overnight achievement. It takes consistency and willingness to practice, but the results are life-changing.
Being Kind to Others
We need more kindness in this world. No act of kindness is small, or ever goes unnoticed. We have the ability to change the world and make a difference — one step at the time.
Every day people faced stressful jobs, demanding relationships, and pressing responsibilities and pressure. That person could be you, someone you know, or stories you’ve heard. This is when kindness is needed more than ever.
When you’re kind to yourself and others, compassion is demonstrated for the welfare of others. Compassion is a richly rewarding experience; one that doesn’t require a fat chequebook.
It’s easy to let something slide and shut our subconscious mind into believing that it doesn’t matter or someone else will do it. Why can’t that someone be you? Helping others should be our first concern in the world.
Create opportunities to make a difference. You don’t have to change the world at once, but you can change someone’s world today.
What’re other things that money cannot buy? A whole lot! A good time, walks in the park, libraries (just don’t rack up a fine), yoga, art, exercise, and good conversation, just to name a few.
As country singer Garth Brooks says, “You aren’t wealthy until you have something money can’t buy.”
Sure, money can get us a lot of things, most things even, but that’s it; they’re just things. Material possessions are nice to have, but the happiness we derive from them is only temporary. We always go back to it feeling unfulfilled. On the contrary, it’s spending and investing on experiences and people that makes a life worth living.
It’s the little things that count. Happiness is a toddler’s giggle, mom’s cooking, or the company of good friends. Seeing your best friend walk down the aisle, or helping those in need. And if we’re happy because of a material gift someone got for us, we’re happy because of what the person has done for us.
The best things in life don’t cost a single penny, and the more we pay attention to the things that truly matter rather than the rat race, the happier we’ll be.
“Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” — Dalai Lama
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