I remember learning back in school that people in civilizations we'd consider primitive were perfectly happy with their lives as long as they remained isolated from other cultures. The second they found out that other people were not still digging holes in the dirt to pee in, but were instead choosing which of three household bathrooms to use, they felt unhappy. This concept had a name, which I have forgotten along with all the Latin I took.
I think this same comparative unhappiness thing happens within a culture, and in fact I'd bet cash money that the whole "they were perfectly happy" thing wasn't exactly true, either: someone surely resented someone else's larger supply of pretty rocks, or larger mud hut, or whatevs. It certainly happens in our culture, where those of us with one bathroom might look enviously at households with three bathrooms, and where those of us scrubbing those bathrooms might look enviously at people who hire others to do the scrubbing, and where those of us who hire others might look enviously at people who can write the check for it without flinching.
Notice the direction of the unhappiness: comparing UP makes people unhappy. And so here is my tip for today, a Sunday and a perfect day for preaching techniques human beings may or may not be capable of following: compare DOWN. I know, you can't always do that; neither can I. Most of us can't avoid wanting more than what we have. I'm sure even Bill Gates wishes he had more of something. It's perfectly natural to prefer having MORE rather than having LESS.
But when I catch myself doing that, I've been attempting to look the other direction. Like, I think of my great-great-great grandparents, and how THEY would have seen my house. Imagine the Ingalls family checking out your running water, central heat, and windows---even if your pipes creak, your furnace is expensive to run, and your windows are drafty. Imagine mud-hut dwellers checking out your floors---even if your floors are a little unfashionable, a little beat-up, maybe a few
I know! It sounds impossibly preachy. It also sounds a little icky, like I'm saying you should make yourself feel better by looking at people who are worse off than you. Which, er, IS what I'm saying. But it's not so much "Make yourself feel better by looking at other's misfortune," it's more, "Don't make yourself feel worse by looking at people who have more, when you are ALSO a person who has more."
There! /sermon! Let's have doughnuts and coffee!
Edit: ZOMG, I would DEFINITELY not want this confused with the "It could be worse" school of thought, the one used to make people feel like they can't complain about anything. For one thing, I LOVE complaining and love reading complaints. For another thing, I think complaining is legitimate even if you are not the person with the #1 Worst Circumstance: that is, I think it is perfectly legitimate to complain about morning sickness, without people telling you the ways in which It Could Be Worse. And for a third thing, I just totally disagree with the whole "It could be worse" philosophy, and consider it completely different from the "Imagine how good this looks to someone else" philosophy, which I use not for truly sucky situations but only when I think I am feeling a little overly sorry for myself for having an unfashionable couch.
Second Edit: I also wouldn't want this confused with the "it would be better to have less" school of thought, which is worthy but not something I personally live in my own life. That is, I would rather have MORE. I would rather have MORE money, a bigger house, a more recent car, nicer furniture, and better clothes. I use the "Other people would envy ME" philosophy for when I CAN'T have more. It's to keep me from focusing on being envious of people who DO have more.