Pursuing true happiness not only benefits you but also the environment, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s 122nd Annual Convention.
Dr. Miriam Tatzel reviews decades of psychological research, arguing that the fundamentals of a happy life are also good for the environment (Tatzel, 2014).
“For decades, consumerism has been on a collision course with the environment, with consumer appetites draining the planet of natural resources and accelerating global warming.
One view is that we need to change consumption in order to save the planet.
But what if we approached it from the other way around?
What if what’s good for the consumer meets what’s good for the environment?”
Here are six fundamentals of a happy life, which just so happen to benefit the environment:
1. Cultivate your talents
Whatever you are good at, cultivate that.
Everyone has something they can do better than most other people.
If you don’t know what that is yet, find out.
Give it time, work on it, develop it. Humans get deep feelings of satisfaction from practicing and exercising their talents.
Be aware: often these talents will not earn you any money.
2. Be thrifty
Borrowing money to live the high life looks like a quick and easy route to happiness.
Unfortunately debt weighs down the mind out of all proportion to its consequences (and look what debt did to the worldwide economy).
So, buy less stuff and you don’t have to earn so much money, let alone borrow it.
That means you have more time for other, more important things on the list.
3. Seek out experiences
If you have a choice between buying experiences and buying stuff, choose experiences.
That is unless the stuff leads to more experiences.
Experiences live long in the mind, they tend to be shared with others, they make us who we are, they are incomparable and, amazingly, often they don’t cost anything.
4. Work on your relationships
What can I say that hasn’t already been said a million times before?
Families, friends, all the rest: you know what to do.
5. Accept yourself
Be comfortable with who you are.
Yes, strive to improve yourself, look for ways of learning, growing and so on; but at the same time appreciate how good you already are.
Accept yourself and be kind to yourself.
6. Find freedom and independence
Whether it’s at work, home or play, you’ve got to find freedom in life.
It’s unlikely to be a sense of total freedom, but within limits you need to have some freedom and control.
Freedom and independence tap into our deepest human desires.
Consume less = happier = consume less
The happier you are, the less you will consume, the less materialistic you will be, and so the less you will consume and the happier you will be, and so on.
It’s the precise opposite of the loop that many people are stuck in: feel unhappy, so consume more, get into debt, feel less happy, so consume more, and so on.
Miriam Tatzel concludes:
“A society in which some people are idolized for being fabulously rich sets a standard of success that is unattainable and leads us to try to approach it by working more and spending more.
Cooling the consumption-driven economy, working less and consuming less are better for the environment and better for humans, too.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: Leland Francisco