Growing up, we sometimes receive mixed messages regarding what we have to do in order to be happy. We’re sold the idea that there are specific things and that without them, we cannot be complete. Invariably these are things we acquire: it could be a large house, the latest electrical appliances, clothes, or a whole host of other things that, in its basic form, requires that we part with our well-earned money.
We’re told that we should want these things not because they’ll actually make us happier; the only people whose lives our purchases will actually improve are the shareholders. Society tends to think of advertisements and wants as unchangeable forces of nature, that they just exist and that our role as consumer is absolute, but this is not the case. To reach the levels of happiness we desire for ourselves, we need to break to the line of thinking that says products will make us happy.
Happy With What We Have
Our impulses to buy are always highest around Black Friday and Christmas, but they usually exist in some form year round. We work hard, save up, finally buy the item, and then when we get home realize it’s not everything that we thought it would be. We feel a little empty. And so we identify another product – that one that will finally make us content – and work hard, save up, and then again we’re disappointed. It’s a vicious cycle that many of us find ourselves in.
To break it, we need to acknowledge that there is no magic product that will bring us happiness and break the cycle of consumerism. That must come from within. We need to be happy in our lives and treat products as the cherry on top of the happy life that is our cake, and not the cake itself. We can achieve this by being mindful of our surroundings and appreciative of what we have. Living with mindfulness is a way of being that frees ourselves of the ideals, desires, and negative feelings that causes us pain. Rather that looking outward and asking ‘what out there can bring me happiness?’, you’ll be at peace in your soul, which you can carry with wherever you go.
Mindfulness and the much broader Buddhism isn’t a quick fix solution – it’s a process that takes time to master and a journey that you’ll never really end. As it involves changing the way you think and your understanding of the world, it can also be a scary process. You may also find that it takes some courage to face the resistance shown by conventional society; mindfulness and Buddhism is increasingly popular, it asks us to ignore many of the things that make society tick (such as wants). Similarly, the process involves admitting that a lot of what we thought we knew was wrong, and may require a drastic lifestyle change.
However, even though you may face some difficulties, the journey is a worthwhile one that will ultimately deliver a more rewarding life. If you find yourself confused or otherwise ill at ease with the world, start your journey along the path of enlightenment and right your wrongs.
By Helen Yong