I just finished reading an interesting book, Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Mr. Gilbert is a Harvard psychologist. His book can get pretty technical as he writes about many different tests that were conducted, analyzing how people think and feel and predicting what makes them happy. The results were sometimes surprising and sometimes they made perfect sense from my own experiences.
We humans are irrational as is proven by the tests. Take this example: If a tremendous deal on a vacation package goes from 300 dollars up to 400 dollars and a not so great vacation package goes from 600 dollars down to 500 dollars, we are more likely to buy the more expensive vacation of less value just because it went down in price than the cheaper, better value, one that went up in price.
Most people would drive across town to save 50 dollars on a hundred dollar item but not think it was worth the effort on a much more expensive item, like a car. Why? It is saving the same amount of money. They are more likely to cut coupons to save a few pennies than save hundreds of dollars on what they are paying someone to handle their financial accounts. They don't want to make the effort to check those prices. Why?
We want to have choices but if we have too many, we become overwhelmed and don't choose any of them. I have experienced that many times when I have gone to buy something, like a new camera. We are happier after we make a choice and are committed to it than when we are able to return an object. Seems that after we have decided on something then we only see the good things about it. If we can still return it, then we keep seeing the bad things about it. So, we want to have choices but they make us nervous and unsatisfied until we have actually made the choice.
Here is something I believe that we all know but tend to forget: After meeting your basic expenses, having more money doesn't necessarily make you happy. Money means a lot when you don't have any and can't meet your basic needs but after that, the value of it in your life goes down significantly. I can see that with the Mexican families here. I watch them having picnics by the lake and having fun. So, where are the wealthy expats? Are they having as much fun? I wonder......
Sometimes larger tragedies are easier to rationalize and make into positive experiences than the small things in life. The small problems aren't worth spending our brain power to try to rationalize and spin into positive experiences. The larger problems are worth the effort. So, as we all know, happiness is an inside job. Example: "I didn't appreciate others nearly as much as I do now." Said by Christopher Reeve after he became paralyzed from the neck down.
"It was a glorious experience." Said by Moreese Bickham, a former inmate, after being released from the Louisiana State Penitentiary where he'd served thirty-seven years for defending himself against the Ku Klux Klansmen who'd shot him.
"I am so much better off physically, financially, mentally, and in almost every other way." Said by Jim Wright, former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives after committing sixty-nine violations and being forced to resign in disgrace.
I could go into the many other observations he had but this post is getting too long. If you are interested, I recommend the book. How do we predict what will make us happy in the future from what we know today? Interesting question and he tries to answer it in his book. One of the things he says is to look at someone who is living the life you want and use that person as an example of what your life might be like in the same circumstance.
Maybe that is where I come in for some people. If they read my blog and see that I can have a happy life here in Mexico, then maybe they can do it too. I hope especially to reach out to single older women who are on limited budgets. I want them to know that yes, this life can be for them too.......