Not Happy? These 4 Alternative Lifestyles Can Help

Not Happy? These 4 Alternative Lifestyles Can Help

There are lifestyles to be had beyond the usual confines of westernization that can help us become happier.

Americans are not happy. A recent international study on happiness showed the United States is actually becoming less happy as time goes on. This is despite the fact that we're richer as a country than ever before. But sometimes money really doesn't buy happiness, at least not when it's being spent unwisely or isn't distributed equally. Our western lifestyle is characterized by excess -- of food, of material objects, of options, of working hours, of everything. However, there are lifestyles to be had beyond the usual confines of westernization that can help us become happier. Here are my favorite four:

1. Minimalism

Minimalism is hard to wrap your head around if you've been raised the American way. Basically, you take every material object in your possession and get rid of everything you don't absolutely need. Things like knick knacks, bookshelves, cell phones, desks, extra shoes, clothes, extra forks and knives (do you really need a 20-piece set when you live with one other person?), your second couch in the living room, your TV, everything.

There are so many things we are told that we need when we really don't. We work long hours at jobs we probably don't enjoy just to afford all these things. Look in your purse. How much money worth of makeup is in there? Glance around your bedroom. What decorations hang on the walls? Yeah those things are nice, but they're unnecessary and may not be a fair trade for the amount of time you spend working to get them.


Many minimalists can pack up and travel any time because they can fit all of their belongings in one suitcase. Where would you go if you didn't have to worry about renting a moving truck or packing for days? Where would you live if you didn't have to worry about losing stuff or leaving anything behind? Personally, traveling makes me happier than stuff.

Minimalists have things that are of quality. No shitty cell phone will do, because they use it for communication, Netflix, doing work off of, internet, etc. and they don't have a TV or a laptop to back it up if it breaks. We often trade quantity for quality without realizing it. Minimalists don't. They can save money by not wasting it on excess and spend more on what's actually important to them.

Minimalists can take more time off work. They don't need a giant house (remember tiny houses?) or a two car garage, so their rent bill is lower. They don't need to buy as much to have a reason to work. Less time at work means more time spent on hobbies, developing skills, or just having fun.

What could you sell right now to start yourself off?

2. Straight edge

Unhappy people generally use something to cope with their unhappiness, or need a little help relaxing. Unhappy people might also be unhappy because they're unhealthy. Straight edge combats this by cutting out the consumption of any mind-altering substances. Drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and sometimes even coffee, sex, and addicting foods are all off-limits. It brings a whole new meaning to "clearing your head."

While straight edge has started to become associated with gangs or violent crews (there's even a gangland episode now), that's not what it's about or where it came from. It's originally a rejection of the prevalence of hard drugs in the 1980's punk scene. But you don't actually need to be any shade of punk to stop drinking, popping, shooting, or smoking.


Alcohol rots your liver, cigarettes your lungs, and pills your stomach. I'm pretty sure we all remember that drugs are bad (mmkay?). Ditch them and say hello to a little healthier.

You'll have more control over yourself when you need to make any type of choice, big or small, because you won't be influenced by anything other than your options. You'll have more control over the situation when you're at a party and your drunk angry friend tries to fight everyone in the bar. It's useful to have someone level-headed in the room. Plus you'll be a guaranteed DD, so everybody will get home safe and you never have to depend on someone else to drive you.

Your wallet will thank you. The average cigarette smoker spends over $2,000 a year. Weed is like $60 a quarter. And for booze, the sky is the limit with price.

3. Veganism

Veganism is becoming more popular as people are realizing that bad food comes with bad consequences for our health, our environment, and our relationship with mother nature. Veganism is the practice of consuming (eating, buying, using, supporting) only things that don't harm animals. No meat, no dairy, no beauty products that test on animals, no fur clothing and the like.


You can feel good about making a difference in the world. Although one person makes a relatively small difference, over a lifetime that turns out to be big. And as a whole movement of people doing it, it becomes huge. I've realized that we don't vote with our ballots, we vote with our money. If you don't support factory farming, don't buy the products it produces. It's something you can do every day to influence something you care about.

A plant-based diet is the healthiest thing out there and it's the queen of preventative medicine. Yes, you can get protein from things that aren't meat. Plus, health comes hand-in-hand with beauty and a long life. Keep the doctor away and your skin glowing at the same time.

4. Living off the grid

"Off the grid" generally refers to the electrical grid of cities, and more broadly to the square mile planning of cities that you don't find in rural areas. It's a rejection of accepting public utilities and providing them for yourself instead. Trade in DTE bills for solar panels and a propane system; trade in city plumbing for a septic tank and a well. Becoming self-sufficient is liberating and works just as well as city services.


Although it's expensive to set up, in the long run you'll save boat loads of money on bills. It's the same mentality of "why would I pay rent for the rest of my life when I could buy and own a house one day?" Why pay the city for a service forever when you could do it yourself? An investment goes a long way here.

When there's a power outage, guess what you still have? When cities like Flint (and others) waste taxpayer money and poison the water, guess what you don't have to deal with?

Living off the grid inspires you to be autonomous in other aspects of life, too. Once you realize what you can do on your own, you do more. Like growing your own food and building your own projects (furniture, sheds, etc.) instead of relying on someone else.

Do these sound crazy? Well so does continuing in a lifestyle that doesn't make you happy.

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Making a Decision: an Indecisive Guide

To all the indecisive people out there: you are not alone


I am the queen of indecision. For me, making a choice will have me frantically calling both of my parents, asking all of my friends' advice and postponing all studying until the decision is made. Of course, this is because I do not want to make a choice that I regret – such as the time I decided that starting my job at 6:30 am would be a good idea, or the time when I scared my friends with how hyper I was after drinking both coffee and Boba tea. Yet when I take this caution of making the wrong choice too far, the decision-making process itself ends up being regrettable. So much so that I called my mom approximately seven times this weekend to ask her advice on a decision. So much so that my brother used an example of me not being able to choose what kind of shoe I should wear in his article.

This weekend, I was presented with two amazing opportunities to make a difference in the world this summer and I entered a stage of decision paralysis that I did not know was possible. No matter which angle I looked at each situation from, they both would provide me with a phenomenal experience, and would both require sacrifices. Despite not (as of yet) reaching a concrete decision, I learned a lot about the decision-making process and what to do in the next time I am faced with a difficult choice. So, in the spirit of finding summer jobs, gearing up to register for classes and deciding what on earth we want to do with our futures, here are the tips and tricks that I would follow to make the best decision that you can.

Don't overthink it.

Really, this goes without thinking! Or, unlike most of us, it goes with a LOT of thinking! Seriously though, if you overthink things, they will turn into a pudding mush in your brain until you don't know what you don't know anymore. There is a very fine line between thinking through all your options and overthinking them – and judging by the number of times I called my mom this weekend, definitely crossed it.

Always use the pro-con list


Ah, the Gilmore Girls. Not only did you inspire me to read every single book under the sun or have a witty conversation full of cultural references no one else understands, but you also taught me the beauty of the pro-con list. Choosing what you want can be messy and difficult to find because of the fears you might have. distinguish from the fears. Writing it all down on paper can often illuminate the right decision and show you which path is ultimately better.

Decide on your make-or-break factor

Sometimes even the best pro-and-con lists will not be enough and will leave you in a frantic analysis ("should I go for the decision with 3 cons or 3.5 cons?") When even the Gilmore method fails, fear not! Consider which factors you truly do not want to compromise on and go from there. This can mean that even the worse decision may be the right one for you.

Trust your gut

As much as it is difficult to dig through your feelings to find your true motives behind a decision, your gut can sometimes tell you what you are most passionate about and therefore what decision is best for you to take. As my Emory Reads friends tell me, passion trumps everything. Choosing which decision aligns with your values will often lead you to make the best and most-satisfying decision.

But trust your head as well

But your gut can't always be trusted. It can lie to you, and when you overthink too much, it can change its mind. Your gut feeling may be one that is furthermore borne out of fear of the other option. In that way, I have made many a good decision based on the pure basis of rationality. Using only our heart to make important decisions allows fear to be one of the factors, whereas looking at the decision rationally can help you see the ultimate path.

Ask around

When I am puzzled about making a risky decision, I often consult the people in my life who are on my side and want the best for me. These people can help you gauge what your heart truly desires, bring up factors that you haven't considered and even act as a support network for you while making this decision. When your mind kicks into over-analysis, sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need to truly make a confident choice. Decisions are hard, people. Don't make them on your own.=

Don't ask everyone

There is such a thing as consulting others to make an important decision, and there is such a thing as relying on them to make your decision. If you ask too many people from too wide a pool, you'll end up having opinions for and against what you are proposing, which means that someone will always be disappointed in your decision. The bottom line is, asking too many people for their opinions is frustrating, no matter what – whether they have contradicting opinions, or they just nod their heads and go "hmmm, tough choice" (thanks, I guess?). In order to avoid frustration, consult the people in your life who know you the best and are dearest to you, rather than the stranger in front of you in line for fries at the DUC.

"Would my dad be proud?"

Or your granddad, or your mom, or your professor, or even a TV character. Whoever you know whose morals you can measure your decision up to will often provide reason and illumination. If the decision you are making is not too wild and you feel that you will have their approval, then it is likely not detrimental.

Stick with your decision!

Resolutely make up your mind and refuse to turn back. Exercise your right as a free individual to make a choice for yourself, and then do not second-guess it. Please don't do what I did and email a company two days later saying you've changed your mind. Please.

There is not always a right decision

Sometimes both decisions you are presented with have different but equally good opportunities. In that case, lucky you! You have two amazing opportunities and therefore cannot mess up. Rather than stressing that you are picking the wrong choice, know that you cannot go wrong in either.

Realize you will grow no matter what

Decision-making should be viewed as a challenge and a privilege rather than a burden. Make big, bold and beautiful decisions. Making up your mind can lead to a phenomenal experience that you will adore or a difficult experience that will only fashion you into a better person. Positive consequences can come out of any decision, even if we land in an upsetting position. Each choice we make can positively contribute to our character, fashioning us into the person we are becoming, day by day.

By the time this article is published, I will know my decision. And hopefully, by the end of this article, you will know yours. Let's continue to make decisions courageously, following both our heads and our hearts. Let's be determined to grow through our decisions, realizing that we have made the best choice we could, and never looking back.

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