Time is money.
Money can’t buy happiness.
Happiness is our natural state of being.
Buzz phrases like this are everywhere in our mainstream media and injected in our personal psyches, but how often have you sat down to really ponder what time, money, and happiness really mean to you? Does time equate to money in your life or do you just do what you love without adding a price tag to the hours you put into it? ‘Time Money Happiness’ by Alison Haynes is the ultimate tool to provide thoughts about what it is in life that you value, the historical context of the values that we hold as individuals and as a society, and what it truly is that makes us happy. This book, while easy to read, is full to the brim with facts, stories, history lessons, and additional follow up resources making this thought provoking read one that you won’t get through in a single sitting. It’s actually a nice leisurely bedtime read, best taken with a cup of herbal tea and a reflective journal nearby to jot down any important points and the answers to the ‘taking stock’ questions she asks. While it would be impossible to summarise all the information provided Haynes in this epically brilliant read, the following points are a few delectable tidbits to mull over (reading the whole thing is highly recommended).
Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it is getting!
~the white rabbit: Alice in Wonderland.
Time is a weird idea we humans have pondered it since the beginning of recorded history. Bound to the planet by the period we inhabit between birth and death time is a valuable commodity we seek to master. We fight the signs of time with anti ageing measures, juggle our to-do lists, aim to use our days efficiently, and desperately try to ‘get things done’.
With our busy modern information rich and time poor lives where we rush from activity to activity looking for instant gratification, we can sometimes miss out on the opportunity to slow down and soak it all in. Those afflicted by this ‘hurried sickness’ (if you get impatient at traffic lights, fume when running late, or thinking hanging out is a waste of time this might be you) are encouraged to tackle the urge to be continually on the go by; electing a shut down period (say 8.30pm to 8.30am) where communications and e-devices are banned, living watch free when you can (this includes looking at the clock on your phone), and having a plan free day with nothing on the agenda.
Our time can be divided into categories and according to Haynes the follow divisions are popular among tim researchers:
- Necessary time: Accounts for 46% of our day and is used for eating, sleeping and personal hygiene purposes.
- Contracted time: Accounts for 15% of our day and is dedicated to paid work and education commitments.
- Committed time: Accounts for around 16% of our time and covers the hours spent doing unpaid social and community interactions like childcare, voluntary work, shopping, and housework.
- Free time: Equates to approximately 22% of our time.
Despite the fact that many of us feel like our lives are rushing past us at a breakneck speed and our calendars are cluttered with what seems to be an endless list of commitments and chores we actually have more time now that we have had in the past. Thanks to technological advancements and the industrial revolution we now have easier lives. We no longer spend hours growing our own crops, sowing seeds, baking our daily bread and spinning wool (unless you have committed yourself to a slow and mindful self-sufficient lifestyle). In fact we actually commit less hours to necessary time than ever before (especially following the advent of the lightbulb) choosing to spend hours that were once committed to sleep, commuting, at paid work, or in leisure pursuits like watching TV. The humble television has a lot to answer for when it comes to eating up our additional hours eating around 25 hours per week of the average British persons time and there are probably no surprises that employed people statistically sleep less than an unemployed people, getting on average 10-30 minutes less sleep. They also have less time to commit to housework, childcare, an food preparation. When it comes to time the key is to assess your priorities, take stock of where you spend most of your time, and seek to find a way of time management that suits you best.
Working with time naturally.
Despite the fact we clever beings took our earthy existence and broke it down into measurable chunks, we are still connected to the natural rhythms of the planet. Our planet beats to a collective time that is managed by the sun, the moon and the seasons and no matter how hard we try to master our environment and our bodies, we are susceptible to these natural rhythms. Have you ever worked shift work? Trying to trick your body into operating outside it’s natural rhythms is hard work. Some people like to think that they adapt to working nights but studies have suggested that even those who have worked decades of late nights never manage to change their body clock. Shift work can cause chronic fatigue, excessive sleeping, and difficulty sleeping along with more serous health issues like depression, substance abuse and even divorce! While for some people shift work can’t be avoided you can always optimise your health and wellbeing by eating regular meals, optimising day time sleep by reducing light, keeping bedrooms cool and noise free, and by getting regular exercise.
What bird are you?
The reason why we can’t trick our bodies into accepting shift work is the result of an inbuilt system of shifting metabolic and hormonal activity called circadian rhythms. These 24 hour cycles that work with our biological clock create regularity in our bodies making us alert during the day, and slowing us down for night. While there is no escaping the inbuilt body clock, there is no denying that we all function differently during the day. Some people leap out of bed in the morning ready to go (the larks of the world) while others take a while to get started (the night loving owls) and this is to do with your individual make up, habits, and lifestyle, not our shared human experience of circadian rhythms.
Interestingly enough there is evidence to show that time really does fly when you are having fun! Being caught up in the moment (which is usually what makes something fun) means you aren’t clock watching so time over faster. In addition to this, the feeling that ‘each year moves by faster’ as you age has truth to it. This is usually because you are learning less with each year. When you are young the anticipation of waiting for Christmas to arrive can make time drag and waiting for a burger when you are hungry can make an hour feel like a week. As you age each segment of your time is a deceasing percentage of your total experience. You know as an adult that Christmas will definitely come (usually faster than you want it to and cost a pretty penny) but as a child that short wait to see if Santa will bring you the item on the top of your wish list can feel like an eternity. The trick to slowing time as you age is to do new things. By breaking up your predicable schedule you create more anticipation and uncertainty. This can slow things down because you won’t know (or can’t predict) the exact outcome or timeframe for results.
The day, water, sun, moon, night- I do not have to purchase these things with money.
As mentioned in an earlier post that you can check out here, money is really just a tool of gratitude. We trade little snippets of our most valuable possession, time, and in return we receive compensation that we can trade to fulfil the needs of our necessity, committed, and free time. Unfortunately for the World’s gainfully employed inhabitants there is a bit of a sad and sorry trend that suggests that increases in money don’t necessarily correlate with increases in happiness. The ‘hedonistic treadmill’ is a term often used to describe the trend of increasing salaries and increasing luxuries that keep us feeling like we never get ahead. When we are living at or below the poverty line we make do with what we have. As a university student one might feel satisfied with being able to pay the rent and still have enough money left over for a few potatoes, a bag of pasta and some tomatoes. Once graduated and in an entry level job being able to go to the market and buy a full basket of vegetables might give the same level of satisfaction as being able to pay rent and still eat some carbs. The same student five years down the track, now in a a pay bracket three times what they were on as a graduate, will buy a basket of organic vegetables and while the cost of living has increased due to purchasing decision, the satisfaction associated with the purchase remains the same. Sure, if you are a sustainability nut, being able to buy organic might have a feel-good factor but a basket full of vegetables is a basket full of vegetables organic or not!
Love to shop? No…. do you really LOVE TO SHOP? If you do there is a good chance you have a fridge magnet that says ‘shopping is my cardio’ or have used the phrase ‘retail therapy’ at least once. Don’t feel embarrassed if you do love to shop, you are not alone! In the US there is an estimated 15 million people who have little control over their spending habits. Oniomania is the term used to describe obsessive-compulsive shopping disorders that comes as a result of a ‘buy now pay later’ culture. We are constantly bombarded with images that are designed to make us feel inadequate and evoke a desire to solve this inadequacy by spending. That’s what marketing is all about! The crazy part is how tricky it has become with the advancements in technology. Every time you use a web browser or search engine advertising knows a little more about you. That’s how all those little pop-up ads on search engines, websites, and social media seem to know exactly what you like! The following tips are provided by Haynes to help curb the shopping demons:
- Don’t carry credit cards without previous planning for a particular purchase.
- Only carry a limited amount of cash.
- Avoid window shopping
- Turn a blind eye to advertising (my tip is to unsubscribe from tempting e-retailers email lists those email reminders are dangerous especially around sale times)
- Stop trying to justify purchases.
- Stay away from shopping areas except for necessities (another tip from me is to write a list of things you like to do that aren’t shopping and pick one thing every time you feel like browsing a store. This helped me kick the thrifting habit while on my 365 Day Wardrobe Workout).
To be happy is a choice we make.
The Duchenne smile isn’t one we see in our idealise online lives. To smile this heartfelt smile we use our orbicularis oculi muscle, which, to put in layman terms, is ‘the crows feet’ muscle. Botox and line-free photoshopped celebrities have created a decline in heartfelt wrinkle faced smiles leading to an epidemic of as Haynes states it ‘Pan American’ smiles, named for the now defunct airlines advertisements that showed smiling folks whose smile never reached their eyes, resulting in people who looked polite at best, and completely fake and insincere at worst. A quick scroll through the #happy or #selfie tag on social media an you will see a plethora of people smiling with their mouths but not their eyes and their hearts. In fact this can become so commonplace an image of a real and wrinkly smile can be a little bit shocking and ‘unnatural’. Fortunately the real world is full of real and wrinkly smiles and taking time to be around people that make you feel lucky, comfortable and satisfied will greatly increase your likelihood of developing some awesome crows feet lines, and this is something we should all be aiming for.
The crux of this book is bringing the ideas of money and time, and relating back to how these two things work to make you happy. There is far too much great book content to cover in one short blog post (which is why you should get your hands on a copy) so let’s end on this ‘curriculum for happiness’ from Fordyce that is based on fourteen fundamentals:
- Be active and keep busy by doing things that are enjoyable, physically active and exciting, new and novel, and/or meaningful.
- Get involved with others and be social.
- Be more productive in your work. You spend 15% or more of your time there try to make it something you enjoy and a place where you can work towards goals.
- Stop procrastinating and learn how to manage your time to work towards personal goals.
- Quit worrying (this is just a form of procrastination you don’t need).
- Lower your expectations. While it’s good to dream big you need to have achievable milestones, and realise that happiness is in every moment, not just in reaching your (possibly blown-out or unrealistic) measures of success (you are not a Kardashian or Beyonce).
- Think positively. You can find the good in most situations. It’s not about denying the reality or your emotions in the moment. It’s about seeing the silver lining in every cloud.
- Learn how to be in the moment. It’s the key to shedding worries, getting lost in the task at hand, and find happiness in your daily life (not just on holidays in exotic locations somewhere in the future).
- Work on yourself. Learn how to like yourself, know yourself, and accept yourself flaws and all. As soon as you accept yourself others will want to bask in your contentment. You will be a people magnet and attract people you actually want to spend time with.
- Smile more. Developing a more open personality can help you feel happier. You will get more smiles if you give them (just avoid the pan am ones, they can just make you look angry or constipated)
- Be you! Because as Dr Seuss puts it ‘today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!’ There will only ever be one you! Make the most out of that fact.
- Seek help to combat negativity. Got an ongoing negative issue in your life? Don’t fret, most of us do. Go see someone about it. The act of seeking help has you one step closer to a happier tomorrow!
- Cultivate close relationships. Find a friend and confidant in your family, friends, loved ones, neighbours, bus driver, cat, or houseplant.
- Value happiness. Many of us like the idea of happiness and think we are entitled to it but don’t place value on it. In order to be happy we have to value happiness highly. Taking active and mindful steps to fostering happiness will get you on the path to being happy. Saying you want to be happy and then spending all your days working overtime in a job you hate that prevents you from spending time with loves (or even being able to establish relationships to have loved ones) ones doesn’t indicate that you really value happiness. Be true to yourself. Make a commitment to being happy. You deserve it.