How much money does it really take to become “happy”?
Is there a quantifiable measurement we can make to determine a relationship between happiness and income?
Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment — money can make or break someone in today’s America. The thought of making a power play towards your future probably terrifies you because you’re either living paycheck to paycheck or you’re just one hiccup away from an empty savings account.
So what if I told you that you can be happy with virtually nothing?
It’s no secret that we require money to meet our needs, but redefining our needs is a vital process in attempting to negotiate peace with our materialistic nature.
In my life I’ve gone from everything to nothing more times than I can count. I find myself encapsulated in a mesmerizing dance of back and forth with my financial status.
Whether it was a life threatening situation, generally unfortunate circumstances, or irrefutable irresponsibility on my part, I sometimes feel as if I’ve been set back more often than I’ve been able to spring forward.
What keeps me going is the one characteristic that will set you apart from 99% of people on the planet. It’s the same trait that keeps me humbled, focused, and most importantly happy to be alive.
Learn To Practice Gratitude
When we aren’t on pace with the perceived progress of those around us or the people we relate and compare ourselves to, it’s easy to feel like we’ve been “set back”. Throw any slight error into the mix and you’re really playing with fire.
In the event of a financial setback, It’s not hard to completely lose yourself. As a grown adult male, I’ve had nights where I completely dissolve into my mattress, alone with a stream of fearful tears and thoughts.
What ultimately cured me of those brutal self-judgments and chaotic thought patterns was gratitude.
I couldn’t keep going with the idea that I had nothing because I realized that 99% of my financial struggles were extremely temporary.
Adopting gratitude is a difficult task at first — especially if you already feel like an anchor lodged into the eternal depths of debt. It’s easy to produce an internal dialogue based around relativity and comparison, especially if you’re comparing to something you don’t have.
As you learn to become grateful for what you do have, you begin to step away from the constant comparison of yourself towards any perceived model of “what should be“. This is the most important step in finding true happiness without money.
There is no standard model for what it takes to be successful. There is no “should be” or rule book with standardized qualifications. You get to freely decide what your own definition of success is.
When you realize this, you can rearrange and re-prioritize what your needs are and how you define success. A successful day doesn’t have to be one where you accomplish ten million tasks or make “x” amount of dollars.
If you will it so, a successful day can be as simple as “I ate three meals today and felt extremely satisfied with each one.”
That’s the beauty of practicing gratitude. It’s an art focused around loving the simplest of details. If you’re currently struggling yet you’re able to read this article, practicing gratitude could be as simple as telling yourself, “I’m so glad I can browse millions of ideas across a global network that could benefit my life in meaningful ways.”
Also, going back to food… Stop eating out.
I’m a huge culprit in eating beyond my means. If you’re a foodie like I am, then you’ll have to come to terms with idea that sometimes, you’re going to have to eat light.
Eat Food For Fuel — That’s It
I love to cook, plain and simple. I adore the process of making something that looks appealing and tastes like it should be illegal. Unfortunately, food is a luxury we often overlook.
Many of us fill gaps in our emotional state with the act of eating. Whether it’s anxiety, depression, or boredom, we omit important nutrients for fatty, overpriced foods that ignite our dopamine production.
It’s important to remember that food is primarily an energy source and should never carry a secondary role in our lives.
When you’re down to rolls of quarters and have next to nothing to spare, ask yourself, “Do I really need a burrito or will eggs and toast be fine?”
It’s important to understand that our habits ultimately define the action we take and the reactions we embrace. There is no “one best way” to a happy lifestyle. It’s entirely dependent on our ability to break and establish habits.
In my article Managing Your Emotions Under Pressure, I briefly talk on the subject of habits. I’m a rather stubborn person when it comes to changing my routine, but letting go of routine and adapting to the free flowing nature of life is the only way you’ll be able to truly find happiness without money.
Redefine Pleasure And Let Go
Anyone living in the modern world knows we live in an age of constant stimulation. Google searches are rich with content, Facebook caters to our every desire, and YouTube has a recommended video algorithm that keeps us hooked for hours.
If you’re on the web, you’re well versed in the addictive properties of instant gratification. The problem is, this behavior teaches us to expect perfect results every time. That isn’t how life works, and it’s not realistic to expect such an outcome.
When you’re running low on funds and it feels like you’ll never make it out alive, it’s easy to feel like you’ll never be able to have fun again because your routine isn’t running perfectly or you can’t afford to do something an advertisement told you was fun.
As if monetary status defines the pleasure you’ll receive from life and somehow affords you the ability to have fun. Sure, going out to the bar and enduring constant concert crusades is fun — but so is drawing, writing, and imagining.
When I think about a happy, successful life, I imagine something along the lines of never feeling hungry and feeling satisfied with my curiosity for life. As long as I’m fed and curious, I’m happy. Those are two easy-to-meet needs that anyone can absorb as a means to “living a successful life”.
If you stop looking at life as a conquest to hold the highest dollar amount and instead an adventure aimed at discovering the path of least resistance, you’ll realize that there is very little you truly need to spend your money on.
We only think we have to spend money because advertisements tells us so.
Find Something Free To Entertain Yourself
From the water bottles you buy to the entertainment media you consume, advertising is everywhere. Keeping an inspired, engaged state of mind is crucial when you don’t have the money to spend on more luxurious forms of entertainment.
In your times of struggle, it’s important to continue going out and living your life. Here are a few ways you can entertain yourself for free and maintain a vicious curiosity for the life around you without spending any money.
- Perform something special for your family/friends
- Sell your old stuff in a garage sale
- Take a walk and dance to your favorite music
- Find a “new look” for yourself
- Redecorate your house or your room
- Take a bath and think about how you can change the world
- Look through your old photos
- Clean your space(s)
- Write a letter to your future self
- Wander around your local city
- Explore local nature preserves/forests
Don’t Give Up
Hands down, the most important part about having little to no money is your resilience to the situation at hand. Remembering that money does not define you and that your struggle is temporary will remedy and perhaps even enhance your momentary disengagement with monetary success.
Holding an avid tenacity towards your future will benefit you greatly in the long run so long as you never let it go.
It’s okay to be failing currently as long as you’re always hungry for the potential success of tomorrow. A steady work ethic and firm belief in yourself will carry you beyond the initial failures of internal or external shortcomings.
Through expressing gratitude for what we do have and redefining what it means to have fun, we can liberate ourselves into fulfillment through simple thoughts and pleasures. Money does not define the success we find in life, our perseverance and resilience does.
If you’re currently struggling, please remember that money comes and goes. The bills you can or can’t pay don’t define you as a person and you aren’t a monster for being unable to pay your rent or electric.
What matters is an infinite fervor for the future and your ability to establish simplified yet efficient habits.
Always remember, it’s okay to feel lost as long as you never stop looking for a way to be found. Look for a better tomorrow and you’ll have found any answer you’re looking for.