The Less Things More Happiness Challenge Day 6

It’s the second-to-last day of my challenge! For the past few days of this challenge, I have been using science-backed happiness-generating practices to bring me the most long term happiness. This time, I want to do something different.

Since it is almost the last day of the challenge, I want to try a more mainstream society approach to what brings happiness. According to the book Mate by Tucker Max and Dr. Miller, you can improve your happiness by filling your day with lots of tiny activities that bring happiness.

I have been fairly clear with you that science shows money does not bring much extra happiness after a middle class American income is hit. But there is still a positive correlation there, especially before you hit that level of income. I’m not saying you have to make and spend millions of dollars. But it is beneficial to engage in some materialistic pleasures.

Arguably, it touches on some basic science-backed exercises mentioned earlier like savoring the pleasure of the small experiences in life, like the trees, the flowers, or your oatmeal. Superficial rewards naturally draw out savoring, but it helps if you’re consciously doing it.

I did something I had been holding back on doing for months. Since I am really into personal finance, saving, and investing, I have tried not to eat out much. For months now, I have dreamed of just going all out and buying as much fast food as I can stomach. I know this is not very healthy (another reason why I have avoided it), but food has always been something I have loved more than most people. Also, I am known to be a big eater. I can eat three times more than a single person in a sitting thanks to my metabolism (though it is slowing as I age).

So that’s what I did. After one of the toughest workouts I have endured in years, I rewarded myself with a visit to Five Guys and Pie Five Pizza.

Five Guys is known for their quality of beef and burgers at affordable prices. I ordered a hamburger “all the way.” This means you get all the non-spicy toppings. There is about 10 free toppings you get. I tried to savor it and eat it slowly, but finished the whole burger in a minute. I was starving and it was delicious.

From there, I went to Pie Five Pizza. It’s the Chipotle of Pizza. You can put any toppings on there for $8. They have around 30 toppings to choose from and I ended up getting around 25 of them. It is very similar to Blaze Pizza, which does the same thing.

This was my first time trying Pie Five and I wanted to compare it to Blaze.

I didn’t want to splurge, but I reminded myself that this was the time to go all out for once. I ended up buying a $3 bottle of peach-flavored Honest Tea that had 25 grams of sugar in it with my pizza. Ridiculous, but it was cool to finally feel rich and splurge abit, haha.

This time, I took my time to enjoy the food. It was easier since I was less famished. I couldn’t help but make a video listing out all the toppings I put on my pizza because it was an amazing first-time experience. I had never encountered a buffet-style pizza service like this before at such an affordable price. This helped me savor the moment. Here’s the video:

I ate half the pizza and quite enjoyed the whole experience. As a quick review, Pie Five has a shorter line, but Blaze Pizza offers a slightly larger pizza, slightly better tasting crust, and slightly cheaper price.

As I drove home, I thought to myself, “I could start taking this for granted quickly and not feel any boost in happiness.” This is the hedonic treadmill in action.

You may have a dish or meal that you love more than anything else. But one day, it went from being a rare experience to something you could eat every day. And you got used to it and stopped enjoying it as much. This has happened to me with Chipotle, McDonald’s, and even candy (Ferrero Rocher).

That is why I invented a term called voluntary deprivation. It just means having periods of moderate, healthy deprivation so you can learn to enjoy things you have taken for granted again. Religions already kind of do this by having people fast for up to a month. For you, it could be as simple as taking a break from fast food for a few weeks until you enjoy it again. You can, of course, make yourself suffer too by forcing yourself to eat mediocre food or living homeless.

Tim Ferriss also recommends periods where you try to be homeless just to experience it or re-calibrate your perspective. I think that’s too intense. Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a tamer alternative.

Afterwards, I played two hours of a video game I enjoyed called League of Legends. It turns out, and I kind of already knew this, that it is not the best game to play if you want to improve your happiness. There is a lot of toxic, abusive players and the game kind of makes you aggravated since you have to depend on your team.

Overall, the experience did seem to increase my well-being, at least for the short-term.

I believe that healthy, productive acts of improving a skill are probably the best activities to do if you are looking for tiny happiness-producing activities. When you are eating fast food or playing video games, you know your body and brain might be worse off afterwards and you have nothing to show for it. But activities like writing, working out, playing sports, martial arts, or practicing music actually improves a worthwhile long-term skill.

I tend to feel better in multiple ways after a good run or workout — though the effects are not huge.

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