I read a story in the paper recently about a man who has moved into a smaller apartment nearer to his job because of the current recession (and even though some economists claim the actual recession is over, most of the people I know are still living through it). He now walks to work most of the time, and he doesn't have nearly as many possessions as he used to. He seems pretty happy, too, which isn't a surprise because this recession is causing him to do many things that many people say lead to happiness--even if he isn't following a pre-planned program.
One of the most common paths to happiness is letting go of possessions. When we let our possession rule our lives, then we can't reach a point at which we're free from them. And possessions can take us over and rule us when we place too much importance on them and their maintenance. When my wife and I spent a year living in an RV, we had one of the best years of our lives--we had almost no possessions at all, and it was great.
He's also walking or biking to work, which gives him the chance to improve his health on a regular basis. He's not tied to his car, and he's not spending much of his money on fuel for that car, giving him much more financial independence. He probably also is noticing more about the world around him, and the nature that surrounds him as he sees the differences in air temperature, types of weather, types of wind, and all the things that affect him much more now that he's out in the fresh air much more often.
He's also learning to be satisfied with less--less space, fewer possessions that will fit in that space, and so on. After all, it's not what we have or where we are that determines our happiness, but whether or not we're able to find satisfaction with what we have or where we are.
I would in no way say that this recession is a blessing, especially considering the ways that it was brought about by people who cared more about money and profit than they cared about ethics and honesty. But it is what it is, and we can do ourselves a great favor by looking for the positive in anything that is, for there most definitely is positive in there. It may be hard to find and it may not be obvious today, but it is there. What good can come from difficult times? Well, it changes for each of us, and we all have to do our own looking, our own reflecting, and our own finding.