Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Self-denial Equals Happiness?

Image via: Business Networking
Did you see this study in The Atlantic last week? The results are fascinating to me -- I would never have expected that by denying myself the things I want, I would be happier.

It made me start thinking about the times when I really follow the plans I set out to accomplish. A couple weeks of swimming every weekday, a weekend when I accomplish everything on my To Do list, a workday when I push through a day's work by early afternoon and am therefore able to tick off a few non-urgent matters after. These things do make me feel very good about myself, but I never translated that feeling of accomplishment as being happier in the short term, only in the long term happiness of knowing I've done a good thing.

On the flip-side, when I waste a couple hours watching television, or eat too much, or lazily convince myself that I should take the subway when I could walk somewhere, I do usually regret that choice later. I suppose that does make me less happy, even though I might enjoy the small transgression in the moment.

Self-controlled or not, I think we probably all need a little help in that department sometimes. Learning of this study might be just enough of a tipping point to keep us from being wasteful with our time and money. Instead of thinking of the long term effect of our choices on our happiness, we now have reason to believe that it can make us happy today, right now, to turn off the television and go pack up a lunch for tomorrow.

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