This is why trying to be happy actually will backfire.
The materialistic search for happiness
In June of 1997. A man named Billie Jarrell walked into the local food store. He wanted to buy a lottery ticket. Jarrell was a deeply religious man, he and his family lived just outside Houston, Texas. He worked as a shelf stacker at Home depot and barely had enough to provide for his wife Barbara and his three children.
The ticket he bought seemed to be the big pay off, after a long life of faith and sacrifice. He finally arrived in Austin to receive the full winning prize of 1.3 million dollars.
Billie then bought himself a ranch and horses. He bought homes for his children and donated money to the church, all while indulging himself in the everyday luxuries of being a millionaire. Two years later Billie locked himself in the bedroom, put a shotgun to his chest and pulled the trigger.
A close friend to Jarrell later claimed that winning the lottery was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
Happiness is not about material things.
Our appetite for wealth and material goods is driven by our own inner discontent. We are continuously looking to feel better, more happy and a lot of us are convinced that we can buy our way to happiness. That wealth is the path to permanent fulfilment and well-being.
We still measure ‘success’ in terms of the quality and price of the material things we posses. Or in how much money we make.
Commercial ads shows us how buying this or that will “make us happy”.
Our mad materialism would make sense if there was any evidence or proof that happiness will come as an effect.
Fact is that, there is no correlation between material things and happiness or between a fat paycheck and a happy mood. The only exception is in cases of real poverty, when an extra income does relieve suffering and bring security. But once our basic needs are satisfied, our level of income makes little to no difference on our level of happiness.
Recent research has shown, for example that extremely rich people such as billionaires are not happier than average people, and suffer from higher rates of depression.
The problem with materialism is two things.
We can debate all day about which is worse.
What I do know is that we all suffer from one or the other. Either we are in the pursuit of more, finer or better or we become numb from the effects of even having.
Very rarely are we ever satisfied with what we got. Because it could always be better right? A new car would make you feel better?
I mean it certainly would, at least in the initial process. But that joy would then fade and another desire will rise to the surface.
Maybe you need a new house as well? Or a new tv?
It goes on and on.
Until there is no point, because you realise that material things doesn’t replace a meaning or a sence of purpose in life. The things you buy only offer a temporary relief and that you are no happier than when you first started.
When you have too much and still feel like crap. You become depressed.
So, if material things, culture, gender and income aren’t reliable predictors of our happiness, what is?
What is happiness
Since it is on everyone’s lips. I want to speak from my point of view.
Happiness is not something we become or finally achieve.
I mean, if happiness was as simple as contracting a set of facial muscles. We would all be happy, all the time.
Sadly, that is not the case.
Most of our assumptions about happiness are likely wrong. For one, psychologists have found that we’re terrible at perceiving our own happiness and estimating what will or will not make us happy.
In fact we rarely ever notice happiness while we are experiencing it. As cynical as it might sound we most often notice a lack of it once it is gone.
So, what is the biggest determination for happiness?
As you already know, the answer for this question is not how famous we are, how successful we are, how beautiful or how much money we make.
It’s not our 64 inch flat screen LCD, or a new Porsche Carrera or anything like that. More than anything else happiness lies within ourself and being the best version of ourself.
When you feel like you are doing something extremely good, when you have done an amazing job, when you surpassed the odds or when you are doing something that you enjoy. Those moments are true happiness, at least they are to me.
Because think about it, happiness is a feeling, just like being angry or being sad is a feeling.
Have you ever stopped to think about how you can become angry?
When you are angry you don’t stop to think about it, you don’t suddenly realise “Hell, i´m angry right now”. No, you are out for blood. You are just angry, just like sometimes when you are just happy. You don’t stop to think about it, you just are.
Imagine trying to be angry, just like many of us are trying to be happy. I sure as hell would like to see that.
Although, I can tell you, it doesn’t work. We can’t manipulate our feelings. However we can do things we enjoy, spend time with people we like and achieve things we didn’t think was possible. In that way I believe we all will feel more happiness.
Thank you so much for reading.
I hope that you found this piece insightful, maybe even helpful. I’m a new writer and I would appreciate any support if you could give me a clap or two or even better, write me a comment, I would love to read your thoughts.
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