Comedian Rodney Dangerfield used to lament, “I get no respect.” The U.S. economy, which now appears finally headed for a recession after years of growth, also gets little respect. This article from Social Education provides some reasons why. Of primary interest to this site’s visitors: The article explains how the “hedonic treadmill” can keep people from feeling good even as their material standard of living increases:
The image [of the hedonic treadmill] is that of someone who must run faster just to stay in the same place. The reasoning is that people seem to judge their well-being not by their own standard of living, but by how it compares with some reference level. The reference level could be set by neighbors’ standard of living or an economy-wide average. In either case, evenly distributed growth would leave everyone in the same place relative to the reference group, having a higher standard of living but no greater happiness.
The news isn’t all bad. We have the ability to get off the hedonic treadmill by setting our own standards for what we’ll consider prosperous. What better time than now to get off the hedonic treadmill?
The mainstream media seem almost gleeful that there is a recession in the offing. Wow, there’s something bad to write about. And — make no mistake about it — those who lose their jobs in a recession face serious choices and difficult times. With fixed obligations such as house payments and debt service, people can quickly find themselves facing bankruptcy.
The conventional response from the politicans is to try to stave off the recession. That’s their duty. If they succeed, then “hard-work-to-buy-stuff-and-use-it-and-throw-it-away” can resume quickly.
But a recession also offers the opportunity to think about whether there’s a better way. There is. This better way is so much superior that it deserves consideration whether there’s a recession coming or not. “Simple living” is its name.
To many people, “simple living” calls up visions of living alone on a mountain peak while contemplating deep thoughts. They quickly dismiss it as an alternative because they can’t see themselves making such a radical break.
I would modestly suggest, then, don’t make a radical break. Just try these three baby steps toward simple living and see how they work:
- Buy less fast food and processed food. Buy more ingredients that require genuine cooking, call everyone to the kitchen, and cook and talk at the same time. Here’s an article to help you get started.
- Call the cable guy or the satellite tech to unplug your TV and replace your service with the free alternative — over-the-air TV. New technology makes this a better alternative than ever before. Here’s how to use an antenna to get that free TV. You’ll still have all the channels you need and if there’s nothing you really want to watch, get a friend and take a walk.
- Resolve not to talk on the phone while you’re driving. You know you shouldn’t — you’re endangering yourself and others. After you’ve made that resolution, replace your expensive wireless phone contract with a prepaid wireless plan. Now when you’re driving, enjoy the road and tune in some good music or conversation on the radio.
Notice the common theme in all three suggestions? It’s “simple living,” and the idea is to enjoy life more — not to mope around because you’re going with a cheap alternative. These ideas can easily save people a hundred dollars a month or more. That’s good budgeting if you’re afraid of a recession. Still, you may find yourself spending less and enjoying it more.
Most people are drowning in stuff and starving for community. So cut back on the stuff and develop community!