I'm not at all surprised that working less has made me happier, but I am surprised that not spending money on shoes and clothes has boosted my happiness and boosted it so quickly. I think it's because I'm not in an almost constant state of wanting stuff. Of yearning.
Marian Keyes writes about freedom from yearning in Making It Up As I Go Along (which I read on the weekend) in a chapter about how interviewers often ask her about what's on her (*grinds teeth*) bucket list, but she doesn't have one. In fact, she has fairly modest goals—such as doing a first aid course.
"At this point, my inquisitor is openly contemptuous of me—because the rule is that we're meant to have aspirations, five-year plans, things to aim for. We have to be improving constantly, to stand still is to regress.
"But here's how it is: I spent my entire life in a state of yearning. During my (very ordinary) childhood, happiness belonged in the far-off future and the markers kept being moved. I'd be okay when I became a teenager. No, when I left school. No, when I got a degree.
"My twenties were a decade of suspended animation—before I could declare my life open for business, I needed the right man, the right job, the right hair, the right legs and the right lifestyle...
"Unaccountably, everything remained wrong. Until, through a small amount of rare proactive effort on my part, coupled with a huge amount of dumb luck, I ended up getting a book published. And I met a nice man. I got almost everything I yearned for...but to my great surprise, I was not yearn-free.
"Even as I was writing the first book, I was already worried about the next one—what if I couldn't write it, what if it was awful, what if everyone hated the current one and it all became irrelevant anyway? Those worries never went away, to the point where every book that I was due to write in my lifetime I yearned to have already written so that I didn't have to worry about them...
"But I don't want to live in a state of yearning. I don't want to move through my days not touching the sides. I don't want my life to be deferred until everything is perfect, because that will be never. Instead I want to want what I have...
"I'm at my happiest when I want nothing. Even happier when I realise that I'm entitled to nothing—but that I've been granted so much."
(That went on a bit too long, but the context is important). I haven't expunged all my desires (I want chocolate, and I want to sleep in every day, and I want to eat hot chips and take more holidays), but being free of the yearning to own this gorgeous dress and that awesome pair of shoes and other stuff I don't need is wonderful.