For the past few weeks we’ve been exploring Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. The book offers fascinating insights for freelancers. Check out our Happy Freelancer overview to get started, but the short version is that if money can’t buy you happiness, you’re spending it wrong.
One of the challenges in freelancing is to take care of yourself. Most of us love our work so much that we work ourselves to death. It can be a difficult spiral: We enjoy our work, so we do more work, and we keep enjoying it. Pretty soon we’ve blown off our family and friends, and we haven’t noticed our life falling out of balance.
We can learn three lessons from the psychology of money to help us take better care of ourselves:
1. Novelty Trumps Boredom
Have you ever felt bored in your work? Most of us don’t—or won’t admit it, because we love freelancing. But every now and then the work gets old and we find ourselves bored. It might be hard to sit down in the morning or you find yourself scrolling through Twitter, trying to avoid work.
Here’s what to do: You need something new. Get a change of scenery, try doing different work, tackle it from a different angle, do something new to shake things up. Your work is getting old and you need to make it fresh again.
2. Take Breaks
TV commercials actually make people enjoy TV more. It’s because the interruption builds anticipation. In the same way, your work gets better with breaks. Not only do you give your brain a rest and a chance to regroup, but even when you’re really digging your work, taking a break builds anticipation. You’re eager to get back to work. You’re actually excited. That’s the power of anticipation. And it feels good. And it makes for better work.
3. Make It a Treat
If we have good things all the time, we tend to take them for granted and they don’t make us as happy. But if we only have good things occasionally, it becomes a treat and makes us happy.
“Abundance is the enemy of appreciation” (27).
When it comes to happiness, “scarcity is our best ally” (34). It’s not about self-denial though. If you try to live like a hermit or cut way back on things to avoid abundance, you won’t be any happier. It has to be a treat.
So give yourself special rewards. Don’t stock your fridge with your favorite beverage and have the same thing every day. Instead do it once in awhile. Go to the coffee shop once a week, not every day.
Sometimes taking better care of yourself is a matter of knowing yourself and paying attention to psychological triggers.