“We all spend too much time at a job we hate so we can buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
Get Off the Treadmill!
In psychology there is a concept called the Hedonic Treadmill which states that humans tend to hover around the same base level of happiness throughout their life with only a slight variation of roughly 10% on either side of the spectrum. This theory (aka Hedonic Adaptation) claims that in the long run, no matter what happens to us on an external level, we can only change our happiness by roughly 5%-10%.
When you think about it, this idea—the idea that we have a set capacity for happiness– explains a lot, right?
For example, remember the last time you got a new car?
If you’re a weirdo like me, you probably researched, dreamt and thought about your new car for months. Then, when you finally got it, it was like love at first sight! You were convinced this car was the answer to all your problems…You kept it extra clean and admired it from afar every time you came out of the grocery store. Maybe, if your level of OCD is like mine, you even enforce a strict and weird “no eating in the car” policy to make sure the “new car smell” stays in tact…
Unfortunately though, no matter how obsessed we are with our cars it eventually fades and before we know it, we’re back at the car dealership ready to lease another few years of “happiness” for a low-low monthly payment and a competitive interest rate.
Look Within for the Win
It’s kind of a shame to think about the ramifications of the hedonic adaptation theory. If you look closely you can see the truth of human nature in that no matter what we do, and no matter how many things we buy, we are more or less the same.
This is perhaps humankinds’ greatest plight… Or is it?
Here’s a secret about happiness…
Without sadness, happiness does not exist!!
Think about that for a second…
If every day you woke up happy, and you never knew what if felt like to experience grief or sadness, then how the hell would you even know what happiness was?
If we look at sadness simply as the flipside of the happiness coin, we might change our perspective on what it means to feel “down.” If we can embrace our sadness by looking within instead of trying to seek the opposite through looking outside our own body, we can free ourselves from this compulsive desire to seek the external in order to avoid feeling sadness or pain.
There’s a reason they call it “retail therapy” because buying a bunch of shit makes us feel good in the moment and even worse, we foolishly think we’ve somehow added something to ourself by buying something outside of us.
Of course, the marketing industry feeds off this misconception of happiness and lack of self-worth.
If you look at the retail phenomena it’s all fear based….
“Get this, or else…”
“You’re not cool unless you own this…”
“Buying this will make people like you more…”
“Without this product, people will never know you’ve made it in life…”
The sad truth to this fear-based marketing is that it works! Our society today teaches us that success in life is about acquiring things and if you want people to love you, you have to have things. The end result of this way of life is that we never find the treasures within because we spend our whole life with our eyes on the treasures without.
But let me ask you this: would you rather have $1 million dollars or perpetual peace and self-actualization?
For me, the answer is simple: I choose peace!
So, what would happen if we changed our perspective on feeling down?
What if when we were upset, instead of piling into the car and rushing to the mall, we went to our meditation rooms?
What if we all took a deep breath when we were sad and remembered that without this moment of sadness we will never have moments of happiness.
I assure you that the answer to happiness in life will never be something you can get at a store… In fact, your happiness is dependent on one thing….
So, take control of your happiness by changing your perspective on what it means to be happy.
Next time you go shopping, ask yourself, “Am I buying this because I need it, or am I buying this because I think it will make me happy?” By pausing for this brief moment of mindfulness, you’ll see that there is nothing at a store that can make you feel better about your life other than your own perpsevtive about your life…
Thank you as always for reading! And remember, what endures in our lives is not “stuff” but rather, it is our memories.