Spark Joy Meets The Science of Happiness – Part 4

This is my week 4 of taking the course The Science of Well-being, or what I call my “happiness class”. (Search the archive for my posts from weeks 1-3 to learn how those lessons connect to organizing and decluttering.) Last week I learned about the annoying things that our brain does that affects our judgment on how positive or negative we think we’d feel about a certain event, action, or objects we obtain. So to help overcome those biases, there are some intentional strategies that will help switch our thinking to have longer lasting positive benefits.

One of the most important parts of the lesson is an advice I give to all of my clients: Invest in experience, not stuff. When we have a new life experience, a social connection, an adventure, even a hobby, the positive feelings from it stays in our memory. It is full of details gathered from every sense, and our brains have the power to recall that experience, again and again, to fills us with joy. (Like when you hear a song from your high school dance, or even a certain weather that reminds you of a trip you took) We can share them freely with others, which the act of sharing your experience can also brighten someone else’s day. The opposite is true with investing in stuff, which often becomes less exciting overtime and causes you to want a bigger, better, newer replacement. And the mere thought of wanting something ignites the feelings of impatience and anxiousness. 

So what can we do about the things we already spent money on and can’t let go for whatever reason? For items such as a pair of scissors that you feel are just practical and don’t bring you the kind of joy that a pair of cool sneaker does, the KonMari method would suggest you hold the scissors and recall when you used it. Perhaps it was to open a special package that held something you love. Maybe it was used to create a fun craft project with your child, or to cut the tag off a backpack you’ll use on a hike. These thoughts remind us that the scissors were the key to another joyous item or activity. Doesn’t the thought of that make you appreciate and love those scissors more? This is using the strategy of savoring, the act of stepping outside of an experience to review and appreciate it. You are intentionally looking at the object from a new and more joyful perspective.  The next time you use the scissors, will you savor that moment your “key” unlocks something you want or need?

One of the most annoying features of our brain that affects our happiness is Social Comparison. Our minds don’t automatically compare to reasonable options. Instead we almost always immediately think of some unrealistic standard, such as someone else who has a nicer home, better body, or more money. You can overcome this by first recognizing when that is happening and think to yourself “Stop!”. Then reset your reference point to a more realistic standard. For example, my clients often wish their homes looked like the organized spaces they see on Instagram or Pinterest, which most of them took hours to stage. They can serve as inspiration if they don’t make you feel bad about your own space. However, a more realistic comparison may be an organized home that belongs to another person who is similar to you (where you live, similar income, family size). 

Showing gratitude has so many benefits. It is a way to help us go back and re-experience what something was like before you got used to it. For many of my clients who have found their once loved clothing that have gotten lost in their messy closet, they feel the same joy as if they had just bought something new. So you can intentionally create that experience again, which will thwart your desire to purchase a new one. For those who practices the KonMari method of letting go, we know that showing gratitude for items that no longer serve a purpose also gives us a sense of closure and respect, instead of guilt. 

Follow my blog to find out my thoughts on lesson 5 next week. I hope you’ll try these strategies and let me know if you experience any positive changes.

You can also follow me on Instagram for daily Simple Joy Tips. 

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