“How to be happy” is googled 55,600,000 times a month in the United States. Happiness is something every business pretends to sell. Pharmaceuticals, soft drinks, clothing lines, and just about every product you can purchase claim to offer happiness for a price. But what if you don’t have the money? No problem. You can buy it with credit. But the truth is, if we were happy we wouldn’t be spending so much money on something we don’t need.
Happiness vs Pleasure
Understanding the difference between pleasure and happiness is paramount. And from what I see, hardly anyone in our society knows the difference.
Coke started a marketing campaign, “Open Happiness,” implying that happiness is inside their bottles and within their soda, dancing among the fizzy sweet goodness, waiting to start a party in your mouth. The first time I saw that commercial, I knew a new trend was starting. While Coke wasn’t the first, it seems that every large business marketing their brand is now promising some degree of a happy, more joyful life.
At most, these products that are pushed on us in every way possible, 24 hours a day, offer pleasure and nothing more. They certainly don’t offer happiness.
Pleasure is short term. It comes in spades with happiness, but it comes at a price with consumption. And often that price exceeds the number on the price tag.Polls show that in countries where people have less–less cellular coverage, less television, less shopping, fewer automobiles–they are often much happier than we are in our modern societies with all our toys. It seems the more we attempt to satisfy our every eager impulse, the emptier we feel.
Let Go of Convention, and Let Go of Consumerism
Convention says you need to spend money to be happy. Convention says you need pharmaceuticals (or you will at some point) and a large home to be happy. Convention says you need to work your ass off for many years to achieve this. And convention says a lot of other stuff that doesn’t do us any good.
Convention produces marketing that is shoved down our throats to spur us on to stimulate an economy that will collapse if it doesn’t keep growing at an incredible rate. It’s all about selling us stuff: more vaccines, more cars, the newest phones, and bigger, higher resolution televisions. But the price we pay is a drive to work harder and harder and harder to keep up with the Joneses. All the while, we are bombarded with so much technology offering us convenience while it sucks up every spare moment we might have had. Most of us want this. Most of us need this, because when we stop and just sit still with our thoughts, we don’t like the massive void we feel. We think all that crap fills that void, when, in fact, it creates more and more of a void within us.
Let go of what you’re supposed to do, and do what’s best for you. Unplug for awhile. Unplug more often. Get away from the noise. Figure out what makes you happy, and start taking some time to do it. Make the time.
Let Go of What Other People Think
My life really started to change for the better when I began letting go of what other people think of me. I do things for me. I don’t do things for someone else unless it’s out of love and/or the desire to help someone. It’s no longer because I want to impress someone. I used to live for other people, working the job that I was supposed to work, driving a car that I thought other people liked to see me in, wearing the clothes that people told me I looked good in, and constantly worrying about what other people thought. It takes a lot of energy out of you.
I see a lot of my friends trying to please their parents at the expense of their own happiness, for their whole lives. I see these people choosing careers and their whole life’s path based on a need for their parents’ approval. And these are people with parents who will never, no matter what their adult children do, tell their son or daughter that they are proud of them. Nothing their kids do will ever be enough. But if it were, it wouldn’t have been worth it.
I tell people to go do something embarrassing, to go into a store where no one knows them and pretend to trip and fall. Or yodel. Go for a walk with their headphones on and dance across every crosswalk. I tell them to practice not worrying what anyone thinks. It’s liberating and it feels better and better every time you do it.