Day 22 – Spiritual
Less is more. It’s a theme I mentioned at the beginning and tried to weave throughout this wellness challenge. We’ve experimented with less complicated workouts, less negativity and less ingredients. Today I will explain why this concept is so critical. Let me illustrate using a story about one of my favorite things: Chocolate.
Imagine you and your partner have just sat down at a table. Across from you sits a man and he has a wonderful offering. A piece of the finest chocolate money can buy. You are each given a piece of this delectable confection to enjoy. After you’ve finished your indulgence, the man turns to you and tells you that for the next week, you must abstain from any and all chocolate. Next, he turns to your partner and out of his pocket pulls a two pound bag of the rich chocolate pieces. He informs your partner that the entire bag is free-game; they may eat as much of it as possible or desired. Off you go. One week later you both return. You sit down at the table and the man smiles as he, again, offers you the same piece of chocolate as he did previously. You and your partner both take your bites… and enjoy. Or do you? I’ll let you guess— which do you think savored and appreciated that small morsel of chocolate more?
If you guess yourself, the one who ate far less chocolate throughout the week, then you’d be right. Wait, if indulgence is satisfying, then shouldn’t an abundance be even more so? Isn’t that what is preached in today’s world— the more the better?
The above story is actually a synopsis of a 2013 study completed by Jordi Quoidbach. His findings were just as you likely predicted. Participants had a significant drop in the positive affect and savoring a week after they’d received abundant excess to this previously desirable dessert.
This isn’t the case with just chocolate. In a study of half a million Americans, Princeton researchers found that although people living in the middle class had improved mood over those living in poverty, this increase in happiness completely stopped after an annual income of $75,000. Another landmark study of lottery winners showed that those “lucky people”, we often dream of being, were less impressed by life’s simple pleasures than those who experienced no such fortuitous fortune. These were people that won between $50,000 and $1,000,000!
Wealth (whether chocolate, money or anything material) grants us the opportunity to own more while it simultaneously impairs our ability to enjoy those things. This is a profound concept.
Have you ever seen someone with far less than you that was more completely content with their share? Nine years ago I spent a month in Africa working with the Care for Life foundation. We went into orphanages and worked with children, teaching hygiene, life skills and occasionally bringing gum and games. What always astounded me as a 20 year-old young woman was the juxtaposition of such unrestricted joy in the presence of such extreme poverty. One night I saw child after child assembly-lined for their nightly bath (which was a cursory wipe down) following which both boys and girls were quickly dressed with a random t-shirt pulled from a large basket. Each complied and scooted off in their eclectic and threadbare clothing to sleep in a massive room with hundreds (yes, hundreds) of other children. Yet, on the whole, these children were happy. They sang, danced and oh, what a sight it was to behold the bliss that came from one small piece of Double Bubble gum. That night while watching their bedtime routine, I remember thinking to myself, “If you can’t be happy with the life you have now, Megan.You never will be.” I recognized something paramount that evening:
Having more in life was making me less happy to live it.
Are you feeling disenchanted with life, daydreaming of the “if/then” scenarios of the future that often cloud the comfort of the current? Stop. Don’t fall prey to the pipe dream that prompts you to want more of what you don’t have while stealing pleasure from what you do. Perhaps it is time for us to stop endlessly seeking and start fully savoring.
If you wanted to lose weight during this 30 Day Challenge, you’re about to. This weight loss may not appear on the scale but it most assuredly will lighten the soul.
It’s time to get real. Let’s expose the lies and illusions that suggest excess equals happiness. To do this, sit down with your partner and brainstorm three things that you wish you had more of in your life (this should be easy for most of us). Write them down if you like. More money, more confidence and more rest are some examples. Now I want you to think of what I’m calling the “less alternative” for each, as I’ve done below:
More money/Less spending
More confidence/Less comparison
More rest/Less anxiety
Less spending, less comparison and less anxiety– all of which would most certainly lead to a more fulfilling life. With your partner, map out ways you may either appreciate or put into action these “less alternatives”. As you do these things, you will learn the secret Socrate’s taught, “…Happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”