I’m a big fan of the yoga program “Inhale” on the Oxygen network. The host, Steve Ross, likes to say (when talking about mental health) that, “Psychology is based on suffering. Yoga is based on bliss.” What he means is that psychology generally assumes some misery is present and tries to rectify it. You’re depressed, anxious, having social problems, or anger issues and you turn to psychology to fix the problem. Psychology forces you to drag all the misery out into the open and wallow in it. Yoga, on the other hand, is focused on bringing and maintaining a feeling of bliss in your life. Even if you have misery in your life, yoga focuses on the good feelings and works to intensify those feelings rather than dwelling on the bad. You still deal with your misery with yoga, just from a more positive place than you do with psychology.
The other day, while hanging out in the downward dog pose, I thought that the same could be said for a debt free life. “A debt laden life is based on suffering. A debt free life is based on bliss.” Many people think that incurring debt is the road to happiness. They think that if they just have the right house, the right car, the right things, or the right clothes, they will achieve happiness. To that end, they spend vast sums of money and go deeply into debt. And it may work, for a while. They may feel great once they have all the right stuff. Yet even if they achieve happiness, that happiness is fleeting. It only lasts until the bills come due, the job is lost, the credit runs out, or the stuff is no longer the greatest. When it comes time to pay up, the suffering begins. Anxiety, depression, fear, and anger all appear. The suffering is usually much longer lasting than the happiness ever was. It’s also psychologically damaging and painful.
A debt free life, however, is based on bliss. When you’re debt free you avoid all of the suffering that comes with a large debt load. You don’t have to worry about repossession, and a job loss is much less threatening. You’re life is likely simpler and calmer. You sleep better knowing you’re creating a secure future. You get to focus on the good feelings in your life. You’re not magically protected from anything bad happening, but when problems arise you don’t have to add financial issues on top of them. You can deal with the bad things from a more positive place when you don’t have to worry about money, too. You also get to chase your own personal bliss. Maybe you want to travel or start your own business. Maybe you want to retire early or take up a special hobby. You’re much freer to pursue whatever it is that makes you happy. When you live debt free you get to enjoy the good things and feelings in your life, rather than having to wallow in self-inflicted misery as you clean up your financial mess.
Given my choices I’ll always choose a blissful life over one filled with suffering. No matter how happy you think you are with a pile of debt looming overhead, there will come a day when that happiness will turn to misery. When you’re debt free you get to live with freedom, security, and the passions and pursuits that make you truly happy. That’s bliss.