Want True Happiness? Get Off Your Treadmill

Dr. Purushothaman
October 3, 2013

If you ever feel like it's impossible to get off of the consumerism treadmill, you're not alone. Mentally, most of us are so attuned to the rhythm of consumerism that we're not even aware of how offbeat it really is. And when we look outside of ourselves long enough to see what's actually going on, the thought of leaping off seems impossible! That's because in many ways, we've been brainwashed to believe that we need to buy things in order to be happy. And who's brainwashing us? Mass marketing paid for through corporate dollars.

The American Association of Advertising Agencies tells us that the average person is exposed to more than 1,500 ads every single day! And what are all of these ads telling us? If your "stuff" looks different from everyone else's, you'll stand out in the crowd. Unless you have the right "stuff" you won't be happy. You need whatever is being advertised--without it you are worth less than others who already have it. The promises made by these companies for happiness and satisfaction are pretty outrageous (can things truly bring happiness?), but on the flip side, the reality is that they are instilling in us a general dissatisfaction with our lives that drives us to look for solutions (buy more?) that will make us happy. Spurred on by mass marketing, the consumer treadmill cycle looks something like this:

a) See advertisement,
b) Feel a sense of dissatisfaction with your life,
c) Go shopping to make yourself feel more satisfied,
d) Panic that your finances are insufficient to support your shopping habits,
e) Work harder to make more money,
f) Come home exhausted,
g) Relax in front of the TV,
h) See advertisement,
i) And so the cycle continues, on and on.

It should be no mystery, then how we've all ended up on this crazy treadmill, and why we find it so difficult to break free. The system was invented to create needs and satisfy them. But only for a little while. Keep watching the ads and soon you'll find that brand new outfit doesn't make you feel as confident as it once did. In fact, The Story of Stuff Project tells us that only 1% of all consumer goods are still in use 6 months after they're purchased! That's due in part because ads make us believe we need the newest and greatest, but also because of planned obsolescence (building products that will break or wear out shortly after they're purchased).

As a result, we consume way more than we once did, which requires more money, more resources, and ever cheaper prices to keep it all going. To break this cycle, we must say no to fast, cheap, throw away products. We must choose to re-use, recycle and refurbish and only when purchases are necessary, we must choose organic, fair trade. Canada and the US consume the equivalent of 9.6 hectares per capita with the world average according to the UN being 1.6 hectares per capita. Its too much. This unsustainable level of consumption will not lead us to happiness. Only by getting off the consumer treadmill can we find true happiness and self-fulfillment.

So the next time you need some bedding, choose organic bedding that is fair trade. In the long run, you will feel better about yourself and the planet will love you for it!


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