Links, Including an Intriguing Article on Emotional Comfort

October 2, 2009 at 3:20 am | Posted in Book Reviews, Finances, Links, Philosophical Problems | 2 Comments

If you're happy, you may not be living according to a provocative post by Jonathan Mead

If you're happy, you may not be living according to a provocative post by Jonathan Mead

Avoid comfort — that’s the provocative advice that Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind is handing out this morning. Essentially, he’s arguing that if you feel comfortable and satisfied in life, you’re not pushing yourself and pursuing your dreams. The art of pursuing your dreams is intrinsically uncomfortable, he writes, so you should be anxious, even afraid, a good amount of the time.

I’m drawn to this suggestion, since I know that I get a heck of a lot more done when I’m dissatisfied and pushing myself. Witness this blog, which came about as a direct result of leaving a happy but complacent state and moving into a state of perpetual restless desire. And I often do feel anxious and unhappy when I’m socializing, for example, or engaging in other activities that I need to do but dread.

On the other hand, when you spend a lot of your time fighting the grinding misery of depression, it’s tough to get all excited about seeking out more unpleasant emotions. I think that for me, and perhaps for most bipolar and depressive folks, Mead’s advice applies only when we’re at our most healthy. I do believe that I need to push myself constantly in order to accomplish anything; it’s just that what I accomplish — keeping a job, having a friend or two, seeking a stable relationship — may look a lot more basic from the outside. I wanted to be a superstar for many years. Now I would settle for that “normal” life, simply since it seems to be out of reach for me. Perhaps achieving what looks like complacent normalcy is hard enough for some of us.

On the subject of happiness, JD at Get Rich Slowly, reviews Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, a book that I bought when it came out and still haven’t gotten around to reading. It sounds worth the time, though — the mental wellness techniques that JD singles out from the book are things that I’ve always advocated and tried to practice. Keeping a gratitude list, in particular, has benefited me recently; I intend to write more about it soon.

I came across Farewell Prozac via Furious Seasons, which supplies so many excellent links. The author of Farewell Prozac is struggling with quitting SSRIs (the family of drugs that began with Prozac and has given us such commonly prescribed drugs as Zoloft and Paxil). Going off of SSRIs is no party; there’s evidence that SSRI withdrawal may be significantly worse than going off of benzodiazapines, which are notoriously habit-forming. Certainly when I’ve run out of my SSRI accidentally, I’ve felt like fried shit. It will be interesting, then, to follow the travails and, I hope, triumph, of this excellent writer.

I took a long break from The Simple Dollar because I felt like he frequently ignored or even insulted single people without kids, and that’s a sore spot with me when it comes to personal finance bloggers. He’s tempted me back, though, and I’m glad, if only for this post on spending and mood. The author has noticed that he spends more money in the fall simply because his wife and kids are out of the house more; he believes on some level that this spending will make him miss them less. Like so many of us, though, he’s a recovering spendthrift, and he quickly realizes that buying a board game actually makes him less happy, though he subconsciously believed as he bought it that it would somehow help him to share more good times with his family.

As I’ve remarked before in this space, I often wonder how much of my struggle with overspending has to do with depression and mania, and how much is simply normal in this cancerous consumer culture. This post helped me to see that my spending isn’t that unusual, and, if I become more conscious of my motives, I can almost certainly control it.

So those are the links for the day; many aren’t specifically related to bipolar disorder, but all of them got me thinking more about aspects of my illness.

Love to all.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Such good advice from Daveeed about returning things you don’t want or need. I always feel guilty when I return something I cant use. This makes me feel better.

  2. Another excellent post. I wanted to weigh in on the overspending part of it. This applies more to people who shop as a matter of mood-lifting than people who are pathological shoppers. Admittedly, I do not know what is best for those who cannot stop shopping.

    But for others, here goes: I work at a major department store and all day, everyday (at least work days) I am surrounded by “sale!” and the many people spending much, much money. Of course, all retail stores are designed to get people- practically FORCE people- to open their wallets. The stores study psychology and design to grab your attention and fill your head with ideas. This is not entirely nefarious, it’s just business.

    Inevitably, whether I’m feeling down or just succumb to temptation, I will buy things I really don’t need. Or maybe if I do need something, like shoes, I’ll go for the famous name at twice the price. Anytime I find myself with that gut feeling that “Maybe I shouldn’t have bought this” I take the item home and put it on a shelf for a week. After a week, I will look at it and ask “Would I rather have this jacket, or would I rather have back the $100 I spent on it?”. Sometimes I decide to keep the item and enjoy it, other times I’ll return it.

    One great thing about American retail establishments is that almost anything is returnable. (Just make sure before you buy, especially on jewelry or specialty items.) It can be very stressful to return things, but don’t feel guilty! I often feel very sheepish taking something back to a store. I feel bad because maybe I couldn’t afford it, or stupid for having made a bad purchasing decision. Yet stores have return policies for a reason, so use those returns to your advantage. Even on a commission item where a salesperson spends a lot of time and may be very personable, take it back. Trust me, they will not hate you or be mad. Stores know that taking back returns pays off for them in the long run. If you can take something back to the store, you will be more likely to shop there again in the future.

    That said, if you are spending money as a matter of mood, avoid car dealerships, travel agents, internet sites like e-bay, and anything that involves a contract like the plague.

    Finally, on those occassions where I have spent money that maybe I regret, there can still be a satisfaction to it. When I return that $100 jacket, not only do I have the empowered feeling that “I don’t need this thing to make me happy”, I also have an extra $100 in my bank account!


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