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The Stimulus Plan

“I am convinced, both by faith and experience, that to maintain one’s self on the earth is not a hardship but a pastime- if we live simply and wisely.” -Henry David Thoreau

Franklin D. Roosevelt is most famous for his statement “there is nothing to fear but fear itself.” He uttered these words in a scratchy radio broadcast to a terrified nation when, like now, all of the systems we had come to rely on were failing. Anxiety is the new norm in most homes today, as bad news seems to only get worse. The foundations of life have cracked for millions and our young government is taking decisive action to shore up the economic disaster, to stabilize people’s living situations and create work opportunities. It is the new, New Deal. Stimulus plans of this magnitude are incentives, designed to incite us to action. They will not work if we all sit back and expect them to cause a response of their own accord.

The need for a stimulus plan in our lives is not just national, it is personal. It is in our individual lives where we must begin to reinvent ways of consuming, learning and loving that are sustainable. In times of fear and anxiety, we must harness our human instinct of fight/flight to our advantage. The statistics of wellbeing and happiness in the context of thriving families carries even more weight during difficult societal crises.

Often this is precisely when many relationships fail. Our fight response, which should galvanize us to search for better living conditions or new employment, can turn inward toward the people who are there to love you. Blame is the least helpful of all responses. The thought which works to keep me authentic and honest in my relationships during these stressful times is this one: In the last moments of my life, I know the only thing that will have any meaning and that will fill my mind and heart is the people I loved and those who loved me in return. It always helps me remember what matters most in my life.

Another more reliable measure of your economic wellbeing is right in your bedroom. Good sex is worth more than money. There is no other activity with such great impact on your physical, mental and emotional well being available to you during hard economic times. The Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study, performed by two economists at Dartmouth and the University of Warwick, analyzed data on the self-reported levels of sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 people. The report concluded that sex “enters so strongly (and) positively in happiness equations” that they estimate increasing intercourse from once a month to once a week is equivalent to the amount of happiness generated by getting an additional $50,000 in income for the average American.

In fact, the economists calculate that a lasting marriage equates to happiness generated by getting an extra $100,000 each year. Divorce, meanwhile, translates to a happiness depletion of $66,000 annually. People who consider themselves happy are usually richer in sexual activity. So you see there are many ways to count your wealth and given that the old standard of stocks and bonds is so shaky. Using the real metrics of love and intimacy, which is what we are here to accumulate anyway, makes good economic sense in these troubled times and will provide the basis for a stimulus plan that can last.