Ever hear of “no impact man”? Short, short, short version – he and his family live in NYC and aren’t using electricity or any other modern convenience. He has a blog.
Today he had this to say and it was very striking:
Isn’t that strange? You click off family’s electricity and make them go to bed at nine every night because it’s too dark to do anything else. You ban them from the elevator so they have to walk up and down nine flights of stairs. You take away their fridge so they can’t keep more than a day or two of food around the house.
All this and then they turn around and say it’s life as usual?
Probably it feels that way because, according to the boffins who research what makes for happiness, the “positive psychologists,” people quickly get used to almost any set of conditions. Within a few years, lottery winners and people who become paralyzed tend to return to the same level of happiness they had before their change in circumstance.
What people can’t get used to, though, is the loss of one of the main factors positive psychologists find does have a lasting affect on happiness: community. In fact, in may be that breakdown in community in the United States is one reason that, although material wellbeing has increased hugely in the last 50 years, rates of depression, substance abuse and teen suicide have skyrocketed.
We move away from our families and friends. We stay in the office until all hours. We travel endlessly on business trips. We spend our spare time in front of screens instead of with each other. All these things, we do because we think they will ultimately make us feel better, but in fact, they undermine our connections to each other and make us feel worse.