5 Steps to Find Happiness and not Destroy the Planet
Society seems intent on persuading us to believe that there’s a “secret” to happiness, and it’s one that involves the use of our credit cards. Consumerism is still a trend, and powerful commercials are convincing in their attempts to push the latest gadget under the guise of it providing total bliss. But the age old question remains, where and how I can find happiness?
While most of us revel in the instant gratification of buying new goods, recent studies seem to suggest that mindless consumerism is not the key to happiness – it’s maybe even the opposite.
In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, a fundamental research published by psychologist Kasser through the ages proved the otherwise. His extensive study indicates that when people focus their goals around the acquisition of material goods, they often report unhappiness.
To many, this may seem wrong, as we’ve all felt the excitement of a shopping spree, and all had that good feeling that comes with buying a new car or outfit.
However, many experts would argue that shopping provides consumers with a temporary surge of happiness, and that when we continue to buy in order to maintain this feeling – we are essentially feeding an addiction.
What’s critical for us to remember, especially in a society that seems determined to prove otherwise, is that memories are more valuable than material goods. Those of us that are able to prioritize our time, and invest in our experiences, are ultimately more successful in our attempts at achieving long term happiness. That’s why the sharing economy is on the rise!
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t spend your money,
in fact, we’re saying just that: spend your money,
but invest it wisely. Instead of jewelry, consider
setting aside a paycheck or two to fund an adventure
or a family retreat.
After all, while the value of material goods quickly decreases as new, better models are unveiled- our memories and experiences remain a constant. Their worth is not determined by the economy, but by the lasting impact that they have on our lives.
So, how we can find happiness without spending too much on unneeded stuff?
1. Happiness through education.
A long term investment that most of us neglect to consider, for example, is our education. While many of us have a high standard of education and have specialized in one subject, most of us have varying interests. Yet so few of us consider spending our money on furthering our knowledge in different areas, and expanding our understanding by refining our skills.
Ultimately, more knowledge means more independence. And this is really important, as happiness and independence are often intertwined. Those of us that are comfortable alone, and can find happiness within ourselves and our knowledge, are more likely to travel the world and make new memories.
After all, there is a distinction to be made between enjoying someone else’s company, and relying on it – and the former can only be achieved through independence.
2. Happiness through socialization.
However, that isn’t to say that you will only find happiness alone. Many people believe that a guaranteed way to find happiness is to be selfless towards others and give without receiving. This, in essence, is reverse consumerism – and scientists have gone to great lengths to understand why it’s so gratifying.
3. Happiness through giving.
What research seems to suggest is that giving to others creates a feeling of happiness not only in your mind, but in your body too. In fact, an infographic by Happify outlines how giving to others creates a physiological response in the body that reduces stress and increases pleasure.
Aside from the scientific reasoning, the act of giving also seems to create happiness because it’s just that: an act. We are making a conscious decision and taking a step towards something good, and this sense of purpose can be truly rewarding. After all, many of us believe that happiness is a choice, and that if we choose to subject ourselves to positive situations- then we can choose to live a happier life.
See the full infographic on Happify
Living a happy life is something that many of us seem to strive towards, but it’s not as unachievable as it seems. Most of us have the capacity to be truly happy, and it’s actually the absence of gratitude that is stopping us from experiencing it.
4. Happiness through appreciation.
If you’re unable to appreciate the good in your life, then you’ll never truly be happy. And while there’s no data to support this theory, experience seems to provide evidence enough. If you don’t take the time to appreciate what you have while you have it, you’ll live your life in retrospect, and only find happiness in the past.
Instead, if you substitute your immediate stress and anxiety for a sense of deep gratitude – then you can start to appreciate the good in your life instantly. If you set aside time to be grateful for everything you have, then your perspective on life will change, and you will find happiness in the now.
Changing your perspective is extremely important to finding happiness, as happiness is ultimately personal. How you perceive happiness may be different to others, so the way for you to achieve it may involve adjusting your expectations.
If you associate happiness with consumerism, and allow yourself to be convinced that you will only find happiness in material goods, then your likelihood of achieving it will be significantly reduced. This is especially relevant if you’re expectations far exceed reality, and you believe, for example, that happiness lies in a car that you will never be able to afford.
However, if you work to adjust your expectations, and take a more realistic approach- then you may be able to change your perspective on happiness. In fact, you may be able to convince yourself that happiness lies in the little things, like spending precious time with your loved ones. And by doing so you may be able to find a source of happiness that you can sustain in the longterm.
What’s important to consider, is that at the end of our lives, almost all of our possessions will become pointless. When you’re looking back at your life and your accomplishments, it’s almost certain that your experiences and your relationships will take precedence to your endless collection of purses.
Because what true happiness seems to entail for many is a lack of regrets. Most of us don’t relish in the knowledge that we might never accomplish a meaningful goal, and this is a common feeling. In fact, it’s a sentiment that the term “Bucket list” seems to encompass so well. We all have a series of moments that we hope to experience while we can, and that our ultimate happiness depends on. Yet for so many of us, this doesn’t seem feasible.
However, by disassociating from the frenzy of senseless consumerism that the media has created, people have found a way to accomplish these goals and achieve true happiness. Which isn’t easy, especially considering the presence of social media platforms and our constant exposure to sensationalized advertisements.
Nonetheless, there’s no reason why you can’t give in from time to time, and treat or reward yourself with a new purchase. Likewise there’s no reason to avoid buying what you need, or to live a life so limited in it’s indulgences that it becomes counterproductive.
The point is that balance is key. In order to find happiness you need to learn to distinguish between what can provide you with long term happiness, and what can’t. This is especially relevant if you consider the idea that as humans we adjust to feelings; and while we may feel excited for some time, this feeling usually goes away pretty quickly.
Likewise, while we may feel happy at purchasing a new good, as time goes on- it becomes difficult to sustain this feeling. And as previously discussed, if we continue to attempt to maintain it through shopping, then we create the dependency for consumerism that major corporations rely on.
This is further demonstrated by Cornell psychology professor Thomas Golovich, who in an article with Fast Coexist stated that “one of the enemies of happiness is adaptation” and that we “adapt to” things that we buy. He then went on to create a fascinating distinction between experiences and objects, suggesting that while we may harvest feelings for objects, they will never define us like experiences do.
This is a pretty popular line of thought in philosophy too, and many experts would argue that a human is defined by nothing more than their experiences. There’s a whole section of study dedicated to it, although it holds little relevance in most people’s daily lives.
What’s relevant is the idea that experiences matter, and that experiences define us. And while jewelry is a welcome addition to your life, it’s difficult to argue with the idea that investing your money in something that has the potential to define you as a person is more important than investing your money in something that can’t.
5. Happiness through “faking”.
The idea that we can invest our money in positive experiences is also enticing, as there are times that we are forced to experience things we would rather avoid.
These negative situations are inevitable at times, and if you feel constantly run down by unpleasant experiences in your life, then this a self contained problem; and one that many people believe can be solved by “faking it”.
While faking your own happiness may seem ineffective on the surface, it does hold some validity. If you force yourself to smile, despite not wanting to smile, then you’ll feel it’s effects nonetheless. What’s more, if you force yourself to laugh, then you’ll still feel a sense of happiness- be it genuine or not.
What’s important is that your body doesn’t care if your happiness is real or not, and the endorphins will flow regardless, so pretending is often a real alternative. If you learn to smile your way through situations that aren’t positive, then you’ll train your body to release “happy chemicals” in any number of situations, which in turn means that your fake happiness becomes genuine.
After all, happiness is all about you, and you have the power to control it. We’ve heard it before: happiness starts from within, and this statement has yet to be falsified. Because while external sources come and go, if you’re looking for a longterm solution, then you have to build this optimism from the one thing that will never fade from fashion – yourself.
Which is all the more reason to suggest that happier people are those that invest more time and money in experiences than short term goods. Because experiences are something that we keep within, and are positive memories that we can use to feel good about. They are personal to us, and we associate them with real physiological responses- feelings of pleasure that actually make us happy.
What all these consumer advertisements seem to disregard is the idea that, despite their best efforts, you are still your own entity. You can choose to spend your money how you want to, and make the effort to invest in your goals and your future. So next time you feel tempted to indulge in the latest slice of technology, remember that longterm happiness is found by those that learn to distance themselves from the temptation to find happiness in purchased goods.
And while society may attempt to convince you that happiness can be found in a trip to the mall, if you take the time to disregard this, and establish what truly makes you happy – then consumerism will no longer stand in your way, and you can be happy for good.