We were at Costco. In December. On a Sunday. Needless to say it was a zoo. People were honking at each other in the parking lot and inside the store the isles were so crowded that all you could do was shuffle along like a Christmas zombie at the same pace as all of the other shoppers through the entire store even though all our family really needed was dog food. Let’s be honest those free sample counters are hardly free – somehow while I was innocently trying a taste of Tillamook cheese the rest of my cart was inexplicably filling up with items that would add up to hundreds of dollars at the checkout.
I shuffled past the women’s clothing section and being stuck in a zombie pile up I HAD to look at what they were selling. Two of my weaknesses are hoodies and the color purple. Lo and behold there was the cutest purple hoodie sweater I’d ever seen! It was like it was made for me (well, and probably thousands of other women across the country).
I checked out the price. Definitely not in the budget – especially this time of year with so much other spending going on. And so I, the girl with a cart load of yummy healthy food for my beautiful family, sank into a serious case of the holiday grumps. Did I stop at just being grumpy about not being able to afford a purple hoodie? Oh no! That would not be enough of course. I then had to get down on myself for being materialistic. Didn’t I recognize all of the blessings I did have?! What was wrong with me! But berating myself just made me feel worse and didn’t fix it so I sunk deeper. At the check out I looked at all of the other holiday shoppers with their carts full of gifts and came head to head with the super ugly and uneasy feeling of jealousy. Ugh!
Now to my own credit this is not a normal feeling for me. I’m generally a pretty positive practical person and so I was kind of shocked to meet up with these yucky feelings there in the Costco check out line. My husband and I over the years have chosen jobs that we felt made a difference and that we liked doing over other potentially higher paying occupations. Things are sometimes tight but we are a long ways off from being poor. Things were a little extra tight this year with both boys in preschool and myself working only part time, but those were choices we made to have the life that we wanted.
I reminded myself of all of this and the queasy feeling eased a tiny bit but still lingered. I didn’t really feel like partaking as the family sang boisterous holiday songs along with the radio on the drive home.
I got home and took a nap. Okay. A little better. I asked myself what I would tell someone I was coaching in this situation. Gratitude. Focus on all of the good things in your life. I keep a gratitude journal next to my bed and every night I jot down three or four things in that journal that make me happy and I’m grateful for each day. I started to wonder how many of those things cost money. So I did a little study of myself and looked back over the last week to take a tally of what things that I was grateful for cost money and which things didn’t…
Here is a snippet from 11/21 through 11/23:
- I’m grateful that my workshop is full (free!)
- That we had a super awesome healthy dinner AND the kids liked it (mixed bag)
- That all of the laundry including the socks is sorted and put away (free!)
- I had a good run at Fit School and am starting to make friends with Meg and Aly (mixed bag – paid for the running program, but new friends are free…)
- My warm comfy bed (not free)
- Our sweet kitty (mixed bag – she costs some, but her sweetness is free)
- That the kids spent an hour today happily playing together without needing me (free!)
- Sam’s creativity and Orion’s funny sense of humor (free)
- The beautiful color of light this morning at sunrise (free)
- Delicious smoothies for breakfast (not free)
- Hot showers for water and tea (not free)
- That blogging is so much fun (free)
- That I have a family that loves me (free)
- That there is a turkey in the fridge waiting to be cooked (not free)
- For all of the sweet things people have written on the thankful tree (free)
- That snow is in the forecast (free)
I kept reading through my gratitude journal tallying as I went. Total tally for the previous week; Free: 23, Cost Money: 5, Mixed Bag: 4
Somewhat to my surprise this little exercise was making me feel a whole lot better! Not only was I steeping in the happy memories of all of the things that I love in my life I was seeing a pattern that was not as materialistic as I had feared. Whew!
I called my sister and she made me laugh like she usually does and life was looking up a little more. I took a deep breath and headed downstairs. There, my sweet and incredibly intuitive husband who had not only refrained from asking where I had disappeared to but had also made dinner and was now playing legos with the boys walked over and gave me a big hug. All of a sudden the ridiculousness of all of this brought on for want of a purple hoodie shifted into perspective and the sweetness of my life came back into focus. Thank goodness!
Why do I bother telling you my purple hoodie sob story? Well the night of my gratitude tally I did a little research on happiness. According to the Association for Psychological Science studies have shown people who are happy, “have more stable marriages, stronger immune systems, higher incomes and more creative ideas than their less happy peers.” Well who wouldn’t want all of those benefits! But the other exciting thing their research has show is that, “people can increase their happiness through simple intentional positive activities such as expressing gratitude or practicing kindness.” (Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013). Awesome! Science backs up that not only did my gratitude experiment help to make me happier (which I knew of course but always nice to be scientifically backed up), but it also probably had a positive effect on my health and well-being.
Some people say money can’t buy happiness. Other studies have shown that to be true but only with an annual income over a certain amount. Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs suggests people can’t focus on things that make them happy until they have their basic physiological and safety needs met first. I’m curious what you think? Are the best things in life free? Or do you need a certain amount of money to lead a happy and fulfilling life? Leave a comment below and let me know what your opinion is.
Be happy, be healthy, be well.
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