Can Career Breaks Buy Happiness?

Posted on: Sunday, September 9th, 2012
Posted in: SoulTrain, Blog | Leave a comment

Happiness gets a lot of attention. In fact, Americans seem obsessed with it (or the pursuit of it). This closet curmudgeon sometimes gets crabby about this simplistic word—and wonders if we ought not to increase our vocabulary and POV. Yet a recent study suggests that increasing one’s world view (by travel) may make you a happier person.

  • That makes me happy!

Could it be? Career breaks make me happy. No, not every minute, place, or experience. But even when the planning, budgeting, or return to reality can make you deeply disgruntled, the keep-your-eyes-on-the-prize mindset does wonders for increasing one’s odds of contentment.

The study notes that lottery winners tend to be no more happy 18 months after their good fortune, and the mood boost that accompanies getting married typically fades in about two years.

The same mood swing can happen from long-term travel, of course. BUT…committing to Big Breaks as an essential part of life—even if only every five to 10 years—works wonders at keeping the mood-o-meters high.

  • Keep the change

The study author, Kennon Sheldon, maintains that the savvy soul endeavors to find ways to keep positive changes alive and relevant as long as possible,

We think what it really comes down to is, whatever this change is, it should remain present in your life experience and supply positive daily experiences.”

A-ha! NOW I understand why my home and office are filled with art from all those BreakAways! Indeed, Mr. Sheldon’s study notes that pursuits that can bring a series of pleasurable experiences (like a trip) may result in more enduring happiness than, say, shopping!

  • Skip the stuff

Yes, we Americans do love to shop. W told us to after 9-11. But does buying stuff buy happiness? Mr. Sheldon thinks not:

People get into retail therapy, they’re trying to boost their mood, and the problem with buying stuff is, it just sits there. You quickly adapt to it…You want your fix…so you’ve got to go buy something else.”

Most of us are guilty as charged—and can feel pretty dang culpable when we want to travel, but the money has all gone to cars, clothes, and what later looks like crap.

Or worse: When your house (which once felt so big and fresh, and once made you so happy) gets filled with that stuff, one can get truly depresssed just trying to find space again. All that stuff feels like it’s chained to your body—and all you want to do is escape the mess and fly away.

So what’s the secret to happiness? There is none, naturally. But here are some mantras that don’t get much airplay (but might bring a taste of free play)…

  1. Avoid over-accumulation.
  2. Live within your means (no matter what that means).
  3. Keep the faith.
  4. When in doubt, try yes.
  5. Retire now and then…

What are your secrets or mantras?  Do share!

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