From time to time, I post short interviews with interesting people about their insights on happiness. During my research, I’ve noticed that I often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than I do from sources that detail universal principles or cite up-to-date studies.
My friend Marci Alboher is a massive connector. She seems to know everyone, and she loves making introductions. She introduced Manisha Thakor and me (virtually) because we have a major interest in common – the relationship between money and happiness.
Manisha is a former financial analyst/portfolio manager (among other things) who writes and speaks a lot about personal money management. She wrote On My Own Two Feet and her next book, Get Financially Naked: How To Talk Money With Your Honey , is coming out in a few months. She also has a blog and often appears on TV to talk about money.
The relationship between money and happiness is one of the most fascinating subtopics within the large subject of happiness, so I was very interested to see how she would answer these questions.
What’s a simple activity that consistently makes you happier?
Manisha: Sitting in a cafe sipping a cappuccino and contemplating life - ideally with jazz playing in the background and sunlight streaming through the windows.
What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
More is often…just more. In other words, some of my happiest moments have come from small, simple, daily joys (chatting with my husband, a good workout, hearing an uplifting song, helping someone else solve a problem). The more complex your professional and personal life gets, the harder it can be to savor these kinds of consistently uplifting “small” things.
Is there anything you find yourself doing repeatedly that gets in the way of your happiness?
YES!!! Checking emails first thing in the morning.
As a self-employed author / speaker / financial literacy advocate trying to “break out” and build my brand…the internet is both my lifeline and the plastic bag over my head. I work from home - so social networks like Twitter [ @ManishaThakor ], Facebook, Linked-In, YouTube, and old-fashioned email are often my primary means of communication with the outside world. I have yet to balance that fine line between using new media to stay abreast of trends and meet new people - and having it suck me into a downward swirl of self-imposed 24/7/365 connectivity. I have a horrible habit of reaching for my iPhone first thing in the morning while I’m still in bed to start checking my emails…and more often than I care to admit I find myself wandering off on some electronic tangent, which in turn depletes my energy and keeps me from focusing on the things that bring me real joy.
Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you’ve found very helpful?
“Only you can make yourself happy.” From a young age, my parents have taught me that happiness is an inside job. As a consummate “people-pleaser,” I can’t say I’ve mastered the lesson yet…but I’m sure trying!
If you’re feeling blue, how do you give yourself a happiness boost? Or, like a “comfort food,” do you have a comfort activity?
I have long struggled with the toxic cocktail of depression, perfectionism, and workaholism. These less-than-pleasant companions on this journey of life tend to pull at my coattails with varying intensity - but without a doubt a good sweaty workout (anything from swimming to a power walk) invariably works miracles when I’m wobbling along the mental edge.
Is there anything that you see people around you doing or saying that adds a lot to their happiness, or detracts a lot from their happiness?
Add: Random acts of kindness.
Subtract: Clinging to the past.
Have you always felt about the same level of happiness, or have you been through a period when you felt exceptionally happy or unhappy – if so, why? If you were unhappy, how did you become happier?
My happiness levels whip around as fast as a pair of legs doing the tango. My happiest moments in life have been when I am so fully engage in work I love that I land in that blissful state of flow (for me that’s anything related to women’s issues & personal finance, especially when I am able to give a woman financial advice that can help propel her life forward). However, those feeling of bliss can easily plummet if I feel stretched in too many directions - through professional or personal overcommitments. Feeling pressured (professionally, personally, financially) makes me miserable.
Do you work on being happier? If so, how?
Given what I call my “straw that breaks the camel’s back” personality, I am now working hard to streamline and pare down my life to the things that really bring me joy. If an activity or a person depletes me, I’m trying to learn the tough skill of just saying no.
Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn’t – or vice versa?
As a lifelong nerdy introvert - I’ve always found social situations nerve-wracking. As such, I’m always surprised when I go out with a group of people and have a good time. Had just such an event last night: my husband and I went to a dinner party and by listening to other people’s stories and current life issues, it transported me out of my shyness and into this state of real happiness and connectedness.
I believe passionately that having your personal finances under control can be a big contributor to your happiness. I’ve seen time and again how even simple steps, like actually adding up how much debt a person has on their credit cards or getting the funds in their IRA or 401k properly invested, can relieve huge amounts of stress and hope up space for happiness. To me the whole reason to get on top of your personal finances is precisely so you can live the life that makes your heart sing So I see a tight linkage between money & happiness - just not in the traditional way!
* Appropriately, I found this post on Ten Signs You’re Not as Rich as You Could Be on Manisha’s website. It’s a great list, both funny and perceptive. My favorites: #2 You have a key to a public storage unit and #4 You have no idea what your tap water tastes like.
* Join the lively happiness discussions over on the Facebook Page .