Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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“Money can’t buy happiness” as the old addage goes, and every once in awhile, that’s actually true, too. Yesterday, for example, I read an article based on scientific research that suggested that it’s the simple things in life that make people truly happy. Having lived a very simple, and yet very stressful, life these past three years, I do — and do not — agree with this sentiment.

According to the article, which was based on a study commissioned by the National Lottery, Richard Tunney of the University’s School of Psychology found that the simple things in life create the most positive impact on our sense of well being.

The study used the “Satisfaction with Life Scale” survey developed by the University of Illinois, and compared the answers provided by lottery jackpot winners to those of the control group. Respondents were asked how satisfied they were in relation to different elements of their life, their different mood states, how often they treated themselves and what form this took.

Not suprisingly, lottery winners (95 percent) were happier than the control group (71 percent), however, when the sorts of “treats” that people rewarded themselves with were compared, Tunney found that it was the inexpensive things, such as enjoying a bottle of wine, and cost-free activities, such as going for a walk, that gave the most pleasure.

“While buying sports cars, giving up work and going on exotic holidays is out of reach for most of us, there are small lessons we can learn from society’s happiest people to help improve our quality of life,” observed Tunney.

“It appears that spending time relaxing is the secret to a happy life. Cost-free pleasures are the ones that make the difference — even when you can afford anything that you want.”

Of course, I agree with this, but I also think that the basics, like rent and food, etc., must be taken care of first before a person can actually enjoy his or her life with “the simple things”. And that, of course, takes money.

So this leads me to ask, after all your living expenses are paid, what do you enjoy doing most?

Comments

  1. #1 Jeff Knapp
    December 6, 2007

    Spending quiet time with my fiancé, doing my 3D animation projects on my computer.

  2. #2 April S.
    December 6, 2007

    For me, it is being able to sit and read a book, perhaps enjoy a nice glass of wine with it. Preferably with my cat and husband nearby.

    I have read before that money does improve happiness, up to a certain level. And that level appears to correspond to the amount needed to take care of the necessities of life while providing a few comforts (I believe the number I saw was around $40,000 – $50,000 annual income). I agree with you – your life is simple without money, by necessity, but incredibly stressful without it as well. Some money is needed for security, and that provides happiness.

  3. #3 Chris' Wills
    December 7, 2007

    Money can’t buy you happiness ’tis true.
    But you can be miserable in comfort :o)

    As for what makes me happy, that’s easy:
    1) sitting with friends watching the sun go down o’er the water sipping a G&BL with a touch of bitters.
    2) just being with someone I love
    3) having an argument without rancour

  4. #4 Chris' Wills
    December 7, 2007

    Oh Grrl (my favourite blogger),

    You aren’t lived a simple life; you have/are living a basic life, for a NYian.

    For me a simple live is having the basics in place, once that is place then I can try to add the happiness bit.

  5. #5 Kate
    December 7, 2007

    For me, it would be having a release from teaching, so that I can enjoy other aspects of my job and re-dedicate myself to teaching again in the future. Time to actually think and relax and be myself is my most precious, and scarce, commodity.

  6. #6 francis Fersch
    December 7, 2007

    Spending time with my wife and parrot.reading and scuba.

  7. #7 carolyn13
    December 7, 2007

    I’ve had a varied life, sometimes well off, sometimes struggling financially, sometimes accomplishing my goals and sometimes failing. Like you, Grrl, I’ve battled clinical depression.(That’s the worse thing, when your own biochemistry becomes the enemy.)

    When I look back on what is becoming a long life, I think the things that have brought me the most happiness are those times when I have focused outside myself, helping others or feeling like I am making a positive difference in the world, even a small difference, like feeding wild birds in the winter. This world can be such a sad place, and that little glow that says “You did a good thing” is a candle against the darkness.

    That sounds kind of Polly Annish, but it works for me.

  8. #8 Dave Briggs
    December 7, 2007

    So this leads me to ask, after all your living expenses are paid, what do you enjoy doing most?

    I like watching science shows. Especially the abstract and conceptional, but almost just as much, how some inventive person has been able to bring the abstract down to where it can be of service and enjoyment to people around the world!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  9. #9 shil
    December 7, 2007

    Making out. And making out is free!

  10. #10 Sammy
    December 7, 2007

    Reading, joking with my friends, dancing, stargazing (when it’s not raining).

  11. #11 Chas
    December 8, 2007

    1. Enjoying a walk in the foothills and mountains by our house. Sunsets are especially good this time of year.
    2. Reading a good book.
    3. Watching a good movie or show.
    All great alone or with friends…
    … and not too expensive.

  12. #12 The Ridger
    December 8, 2007

    As Ogden Nash once said,

    The only incurable troubles of the rich are the troubles that money can’t cure,
    Which is a kind of trouble that is even more troublesome if you are poor.
    Certainly there are lots of things in life that money won’t buy, but it’s very funny –
    Have you ever tried to buy them without money?

    You’re so right. Without the basics in place, you can’t have “the simple life”.

    But for me, the cat, the laptop, good books and DVDs…

  13. #13 heidi
    December 9, 2007

    Volunteering at the local zoo and helping with their rehab. Birding. Since I don’t have a dog, house sitting is up there as well – I love to walk dogs and not deal with the responsibility of tending them for years on end. Tis better to pamper someone else’s pet for a week than feel guilty about traveling without your own anyway.

  14. #14 "GrrlScientist"
    December 9, 2007

    i have thought and thought about this so i could add my own list to all of your lists of things that i enjoy doing, and here’s what i’ve come up with (so far);

    cooking with my friends
    feeding my birds
    letting my birds fly around my apartment
    reading
    drinking wine while hanging out with my friends
    birding
    photography
    writing, especially writing my blog

  15. #15 biosparite
    December 9, 2007

    Watching silicified trilobite parts emerge from Paleozoic limestone immersed in a dilute solution of HCl and water. Muriatic acid is cheap, and so is a Rubbermaid dishpan to contain the reaction.

  16. #16 JPS
    December 10, 2007

    What makes me happiest is walking in urban areas and hiking in rural areas, jogging, cooking and reading. I am about to start reading ‘Red Sky at Morning: America and the Crisis of the Global Environment’

    The author, James Speth, has written a guest post on Girstmill:

    Some convenient truths
    Scaling back our energy-hungry lifestyles means more of what matters, not less
    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/12/7/171425/969

    A group of professors in economics, communications, psychology and environmental science say basically that the simpler things are what makes us happiest and these simple things are much more eco-friendly.

  17. #17 CG Walters
    December 17, 2007

    1) spending time with my wife
    2) reading for pure pleasure
    3) feeding the wild birds
    4) walking the mountains
    5) dark chocolate and red wine
    6) following a new novel (my own) as it develops before me
    Peace and wonder,
    CG