True Abundance

When we think of abundance, we often think of material things: having enough money, clothes, or a beautiful home. We want to be comfortable and free from worry. But is an abundance of things really correlated with happiness? At the end of our lives, will we measure our worth by material gain, or by the way we actually lived?

Not surprisingly, perhaps, recent studies have confirmed that the way we live matters more in terms of satisfaction and happiness than the money we earn. Studies have shown that meaningful work (having a “calling”), respect from your peers, and giving to others are more strongly associated with happiness than personal wealth or income. In fact, some studies have shown that having excessive wealth actually interferes with the ability to find joy in everyday pleasures.

Bronne Ware, a palliative care nurse from Australia, compiled her observations of what matters most in a poignant book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Regret #2: “I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.” Too often, people (especially men) felt they had missed critical periods in the lives of their children, or the companionship of their partners. More important than work or money were

  • The courage to live an authentic life
  • Time with friends
  • The courage to express their true feelings.

And one of the most common regrets? This simple realization: “I wish I had let myself be happier.”

Rather than leaning toward the material, I found this definition of abundance most clear: overflowing fullness. So while we imagine how to cultivate true, joyful, and meaningful abundance in our lives, remember this: laughter, friends, family, and the ability to be our true selves—let us find true abundance here.

Lisa B. Nelson, MD, is a family practice physician, Director of Medical Education for Kripalu programs, and a Kripalu faculty member who has trained thousands of individuals in mind-body practices for health and vitality.

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