There used to be a bumper sticker that read: “He who dies with the most toys wins!”
Well, back when we could make money in our sleep, perhaps that thought had some humor and merit, but no longer. Winning at life is not about what you have — it’s about how you feel.
These days, when you may be striving to make ends meet, it helps to look for pleasure in simplicity. Right now, living within your means is a very good thing, but you may need to create some room to have fun and enjoy your life.
Money almost always enters into the equation, but when it comes to positive emotions, not so much. When you’re no longer distracted by your activities or making plans, you’re engaged in simply “being.” For some people, this can be uncomfortable. You must learn to look for joy in just being alive. In any case, it beats the heck out of the alternative.
The problem arises when what we want begins to overshadow the simple enjoyment of living. Many people have discovered that they don’t need a big house and new cars to have a good life. Families have become closer than ever these days, as the world becomes more difficult to navigate and they need the emotional support.
With this closeness comes the added benefit of giving you more love to draw upon, and that can only strengthen you and make your life easier.
Finding your own particular brand of joy can be a bit elusive, especially if you’ve never looked for it before. Some people find it in quiet time and solitary activities, while others need more energy and people around them. There is no one right way to experience —or bring more joy and positive energy into — your life.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to paint or to hike, bike or play music. You need to be realistic and know that you probably won’t be going pro anytime soon. But the joy of being able to play the Moonlight Sonata on the piano, or of hiking a mountain trail to sit by a waterfall, is truly great.
You may want to try something small at first, but remember that the world is your canvas. Once you allow yourself to experience more joy, others will see it in you, and it will change the way you relate to them.
When you’re happy, others will be more cheerful around you. You’ll also find yourself more open to trying new things. Even those unpleasant chores will become easier as you now have something to look forward to after finishing them.
Some people take up sports or hobbies. Some even start new businesses to create something satisfying to work on and look forward to. Most people become happier with their lives when they take a risk, large or small, and decide to enjoy themselves along the way.
This may seem almost too simple. The good news is that it works. If you don’t think so right now, give it a try. You’ll get there.
Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of “100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence — Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too” (Career Press, 2010).