You know the feeling. You have something scheduled and then last minute, it’s cancelled. You might feel bummed, regret, disappointment. But you might also feel elation. Suddenly you have a free hour! That feeling, when you have time to do what you want, is called “time affluence”.
I have been listening to this new podcast called “The Happiness Lab” by Dr Laurie Santos, who teaches the happiness class at Yale that is wildly popular. The first class had to be taught in a stadium to accommodate all the students enrolled. I have loved all the tid-bits that I have picked up and I recommend the podcast highly. This most recent episode, “4. Mistakenly Seeking Solitude” talks about how happy this time affluence can feel.
Thankfully, we have so many things today that are automated that help us do things more effectively and conveniently, right?! We don’t stand in bank teller lines any more, we use ATMS or mobile deposits, we don’t go grocery shopping, we pick up our groceries in the parking lot. You’d probably think that all this automation leads to increased happiness right? But guess what?! It doesn’t!
The podcast makes the claim that all this convenience comes at a cost. This cost is the opportunity for social interaction. Surveys of the top 10 percent of the happiest people have one thing in common and its social interaction! And it turns out that even social interactions with strangers make a difference. It’s that conversation with the bank teller, the quick chat with the lady behind you in the grocery line who can’t stop squeezing your son’s cheeks, it’s the conversation in the record shop with the clerk over the new record you’re buying. No wonder record sales are hitting an all time high.
Obviously, this is just the beginning of the conversation. There has to be some balance in this equation. I understand that you’re not all of a sudden going to go to the coin laundromat for the social interaction. I wonder where the healthy boundary is between using automation and finding happiness in small interactions with others.