General ramblings

Happiness, Instant Gratification and My Make Do and Mend Year…

June 14, 2013

Cripes-that must win the prize for longest ever blog post title…

I was e-mailed recently by a company called Happify– “a NYC-based company with a vision to bring the science of happiness to mass market in an entirely new way” to see if I would be interested in piloting their Pioneers programme.
I was intrigued so I clicked on the links and had a read. I am not sure it is really for me, but it got me thinking about Happiness and whether Making Do and Mending could make us all happier.

And I think as long as you are not trying to blog about it, and save the world at the same time, then yes, it really does.

We are all told that money and ‘things’ do not equate to happiness. There are numerous studies that hit the headlines periodically about how we are now less happy as a nation than we were 50 years ago, even though most of us now have a better standard of living, and possibly more disposable income, and certainly more gadgets and ‘stuff’.
But who of us actually believes that enough to de-clutter and live a minimalist lifestyle? To give away our wordly goods and live a truly simple life.
Who of us is brave enough to really chase our dreams and give it all up to live The Good Life like good old Tom and Barbara?

Since starting My Make Do and Mend Year, my life has got busier and more complicated rather than simpler. But that is only because I have chosen to blog about it, and try and do 80 million other things, like start up an Upcycle Exchange, a Repair Cafe, and run Charity Sewing Days. Oh, and look after, feed and entertain 2 Smalls. That aside, I think it would be simpler. Yes, everything may take a bit more thought and time, but in some ways that is good. It forces us to slow down and focus on what we really want. If I’m not prepared to spend an hour of my time making someone a gift, should I really be giving them anything at all?
Buy what My Make Do and Mend Year is missing, and what I think we all sometimes mistake happiness for nowadays, is….

Instant gratification.

The curse of our generation, it would seem, or so we are told anyway.
We have grown up in an era pretty much untouched by the needs for constraint or waiting.
We have been told, endlessly, day in and day out, by the very clever ad-men and ladies, that we need newer, shinier, bigger, brighter, more. And that we deserve it. And that we need it NOW. And that it will make us happy.
We have been brainwashed into thinking that we need all these things to makes our lives complete, and that our lives will be better, we will be happier, if we go out and buy stuff.
And maybe for a minute or two, we are happier, we are chuffed to bits with our newer, bigger, brighter, shinier whatever. But then they bring out another even newer, even shinier one, and ours now looks dull and boring and out of date. And we feel sad.

It’s a little bit like the choice between going for a run and eating a chocolate bar, or having a glass of wine.
I like eating chocolate and drinking wine.

Just to prove it, here is the lamp we made from a bottle of wine I selflessly drank...

Just to prove it, here is the lamp we made from a bottle of wine I selflessly drank…

But I know that in the long run it makes me feel pretty pants (doesn’t stop me doing it though), I gain weight and feel pretty rubbish about myself.
I am trying to make myself go running at the moment and it is the polar opposite. I don’t especially like it, I am not one of these people who gets a huge endorphin high after plodding slowly around the block, but in the long term  it makes me feel much better about myself. Much happier.
So why is it soooo much harder to get out of the door and go for a run than it is to sit on the sofa and scoff Maltesers?

I think it all comes back to our need for instant gratification.
If I sit on the sofa and eat Maltesers, they are yummy, I am happy for a minute or two, I feel I have given myself the treat we are all told we deserve, and it is not until later that the guilt sets in.
If I go for a run, it is hard work, and hot and sweaty, and it is not until later that the smug self-satisfied “I have done a good thing” feeling kicks in, and I am happy!

What I am trying to say in my very rambling way, is that Buying Nothing New is a bit like going for a run.
It can be harder work than the instant fix of modern day consumerism. It can take a bit of patience, and (heaven forbid) a bit of waiting to find or make what you are looking for, but then that self-satisfied smug feeling of having done a ‘good thing’ kicks in. Along with the happiness!

So how do we break this endless cycle of instant gratification and consumerism and not really being all that happy?
How do we make living sustainably, and being happy about the choices you have made, ‘cool’ and mainstream and normal. Not just because it is a ‘good thing’ to do, but because it is the ONLY thing to do if we are to stand a chance of preserving the way of life we have at the moment, and the beautiful planet we live on.

How do we, truly, get happy?

Answers on a postcard please….

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  • Reply Cause and effect | My Make Do and Mend Year June 23, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    […] blogged recently about Happiness, and Instant Gratification, and how it applies (or doesn’t) to My Make Do and Mend […]

  • Reply Sarah June 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

    Well as a former city girl wanting all the shiney things and chocolatey and wine things that did nothing but made me fat and in debt I am now taking a very brave move of moving in with my partner and attempting “the good life!” Moving into a small farm in the country my aim is to live as healthy, clean and sustainable as possible, I know it will be hard work (I already have blisters on my fingers from tie wrapping fencing for all the animals), but I am hopeful that it will improve our quality of life and general happiness (although it is contentment I strive for) I have a teen son who knows little trade and spends his life on the xbox, but that will have to be reduced dramatically as our house is entirely solar/wind powered and he will need to help around the farm, he is already learnt to drive diggers and lawn mowers and use tools, care for animals and I hope he will learn other skills too like helping me grow fruit and veg and building.designing items from scrap wood etc, fingers crossed it works and we are both happier (I will report back either way :D) and I build a better healthier future for me and my son 🙂

    • Reply Jen June 17, 2013 at 8:10 pm

      OMG-you really ARE living the dream. That sounds AMAZING. I’m sure it’s proper hard work and not as idyllic as it sounds, but I am very jealous. Keep us updated!

      • Reply Sarah June 18, 2013 at 9:39 am

        I am ready for the hard work, I think what worries me most is the when the cold weather comes but I am trying to prepare as much as possible, thanks for the reply and I will keep you posted 🙂

  • Reply Vivienne Downes (@VivienneDownes) June 16, 2013 at 7:10 am

    You are so right Jen … I get a zillion times more satisfaction from things I’ve made or up-cycled, or old things that I’ve used for years rather than replaced with new shiny stuff. I bet my 38 year old orange plastic washing basket is far superior to any made now !!!

    • Reply Jen June 16, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      I bet it is-as ours is demonstrating…

  • Reply Green Steve June 15, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    I don’t so much strive for happiness in my life as I think that emotions are ultimately temporary and most people have natural highs and lows.

    Instead, I try to focus in on the meaning in my life and how the things I do on a daily or even yearly basis are helping the general wellbeing of the planet and of the people living on it.

    Indeed, I think looking outward to others rather than inwards to the ego is the only way to achieve long term meaning in one’s life and with this you can then accept the highs and lows as they come without worrying too much about them.

    Just my 2 cents anyway.

    • Reply Jen June 16, 2013 at 7:06 pm

      You are quite right Steve. I should focus more on that-thankyou

  • Reply Jo aka Kiwijo June 15, 2013 at 7:29 am

    Hmm, will have to give that one some thought, tho at the moment what makes me happy is when someone appreciates and likes a gift I have made for them.
    Good, thought provoking post Jen. :o)

    • Reply Jen June 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Thanks Jo. There is nothing like giving a handmade present and seeing someone’s face light up!

  • Reply contessafarrugia June 15, 2013 at 6:16 am

    Totally off topic but have you considered that running isn’t “your thing”
    I’m passionate about getting people more active (it saves the NHS a packet and more importantly makes individuals and the world a happier place).
    I meet so many people that hate exercise and I know exactly what they mean but then you find out that they are forcing themselves to do something that they hate. They inevitably give up and end up on the sofa feeling guilty, which is sad.

    I freaking hated exercise as a kid when I was forced to run about in godawful clothes getting bashed with hockey sticks. As I’ve grown up I’ve learnt that running makes me feel awful – such a trudge not to mention my knees. But dancing or swimming or cycling make me light up like a kids toy. (you know, one of those hideous plastic ones down the market that never wizz round lights flashing enthralling teeny sprogs)

    I admit I do still struggle to get my kit and make time for a swim or groan about getting my bike instead of the train. But the effect is immediate – unlike running which is still hell. However grumpy I am in the morning once I’m on my bike I’m singing.

    he he. I know you were talking about instant gratification and here’s me pushing an instant fix. But I think there is a difference between doing what feels good and pushing for instant gratification.

    Perhaps one reason why it’s hard to break the cycle of instant gratification is because people feel that there is no middle ground it’s either the malteasers or the lettuce leaves. And that is what we are sold because it makes the malteasers more attractive. (Clever marketers again) We need to find the thing that feels right but also feels nice. Otherwise we end up trying to sell a hair shirt and that’s just setting ourselves up for failure.

    • Reply Jen June 16, 2013 at 7:05 pm

      Some great points-thankyou! I do kind of like running-I like the ‘me’ time and find it quite meditative. Just hard work and the same as you, I have to force myself out of the door. But just by taking that positive step of stepping out of the door does indeed make me feel better. I have been running on and off since I was about 10, so I guess it is my ‘exercise of choice’ just wish I was more committed and could get fitter quicker 🙂

  • Reply kimroper2010 June 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    I’m right there with you on this one. My own voyage on the ‘buy no new clothes for a year’ boat is going well. I’ve bought stuff from charity shops (greatest buy a pair of Armani trousers for £10!) it has made me SERIOUSLY consider what I need, what my daughter needs and what we can make (3 summer dresses with old material we had lying about) and what is worth keeping/mending (my beloved house-cardi).

    During this process I’ve also attended a mindfulness meditation course which has changed my attitude to everything. I don’t think I’ll ever be a ‘consumerist’ person again. What started with clothing is now seeping its way into everything I ‘could’ buy. I rarely go window shopping now. I am frustrated by overtly pushy adverts on telly. Incredibly frustrated at ones aimed at my 5yr old small.

    The point I guess is that I COMPLETELY agree with you. I get SO much more pleasure from making do and mending, great car boot finds and non-consumerism that I hope everyone reading your blogs and being inspired by you will give it a go for just a month. Trust me, there’s no going back from that feeling of achievement and pleasure in your own ingenuity!!

    Thanks for keeping on inspiring us x

    • Reply Jen June 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      Sounds like your year is going brilliantly! Thankyou for your kind words-as you said, I would encourage everyone to give it a go, even if just for a week or a month 🙂

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