There is plenty of evidence that ‘the work-dominated and materially encumbered affluence of today is not giving us enjoyable lives, and that switching to a more sustainable society in which we work and produce less would actually make us happier’:
– the ‘stress, congestion, ill-health, noise and waste that come with our “high” standard of living.’
– the ‘rates of occupational ill-health and depression have been shown to be linked to the number of hours we work
All in all they have shown that ‘once a certain level of income is reached further wealth does not correlated with increased happiness.’
You can probably tell from the last few blog entries that my happiness (although still caught up in many societal-determined aspirations) it isn’t caught up in material wealth. I do not believe wealth equals happiness. And so you may ask: what is it that actually makes me happy? I feel at my happiest when I am dedicating my time to something I feel is worthwhile. It may be writing, reading, helping someone, traveling, exercising, cooking, spending time with family or friends – whatever it is, my happiness seems to be inseparable from (my perception of) the worthiness of those things to which I am spend my most valuable (and limited) asset.
One way we can increase the happiness in our own lives, and decreasing the damage we are causing to lives in developing countries and our environment, is to reflect on our conception of “the good life” and make sure it really is guiding us toward a life we desire. A redefinition of the “good life” would focus on the quality of life rather than quantity of “things”. It would begin by addressing the “time poverty” so often experienced in western society.
We would begin by decreasing our work hours, which would lower our incomes but would also mean less stress and less strain on relationships, less commuting, and would allow us to be rich in something else: time.
Snapped in Bolivia on the Uyuni Salt Lakes. It was even more magic than it looks.
Kate Soper, ‘The Good Life’, New Scientist (18 Oct 2008). p. 54. Soper is based at London Metropolitan University, specialising in the theory of needs and consumption, and environmental philosophy, author of What is Nature? Culture, politics and the non-human. Also see: Cultures of Consumption Project at www.consume.bbk.ac.uk)
‘How We Kicked out Addiction to Growth’, New Scientist (October 2008). p. 53.