Did you know that you can buy happiness? Yep, according to some of the latest product slogans, happiness is just a purchase away. Since I've started this blog -- a little happiness project of my own -- my eyes and ears have been open for everything involving happiness, positivity, and/or personal development. I love coming across new books or blog, new quotes or comments. In particular, I spend a great deal of time thinking about happiness. Happiness, as I've discussed many times before, comes from within. Things and experiences can buy you happiness, but it's a different type of happiness. That type of happiness is brief. Very brief. So brief that I'm not even sure if it's really happiness. It's more of a rush or a filled-up feeling. It is not the same as actually being happy. But happiness seems to be used a lot to sell things. A lot, a lot, a lot! One thing I've noticed pretty often lately is the number of slogans using the word "happy" or "happiness" to sell. Here are some of the latest and greatest:
Open happiness. (Coca-Cola)
Drive happy. (Alamo Car Rental)
Help yourself to happiness. (Golden Corral)
Happy starts inside. (Minute Maid)
Make your body happy. (Aquafina)
Snack happy. (Nabisco)
Unleash the happiness. (Pizza Hut)
Make your mouth happy. (Twizzlers)
Come hungry. Leave happy. (IHOP)
These are just the slogans I've seen recently. I'm sure there are countless slogans involving the idea that we can purchase happiness, as if it's a tangible thing we can hold on to. Personally, I'm of the belief that happiness -- real, lasting happiness -- is not something that can be purchased. You won't really be happier if you crack open a can of Coke. You won't really drive happier if you rent a car from Alamo instead of Hertz. And, if you're not already happy, you won't leave IHOP really feeling happier then when you went in.
Happiness, for me, is important. Maybe because it's hard for me to grasp a lot of the time. Maybe because I have a burning desire to live a happy life. But, for whatever reason, I value happiness. Therefore, I'm a bit irked by these slogans (and the countless other advertisements that use happy images and ideas to sell their products). Sure, it makes sense. Of course advertisers want you to believe that you'll be happier if you purchase their product. And, in reality, you might be happier -- for a short time. But the happiness that comes with external purchases is bad news because it perpetuates the idea that we can (and should) buy happiness, that happiness is something outside of us that has to be obtained.
Okay, before we go on, I'll come clean. I'm a shopaholic. Not that "oh-I-like-clothes" kind. I'm talking the "at-the-mall-at-least-4-or-5-times-a-week" kind. I'm talking spending more on a handbag than some spend on their entire wardrobes. I'm talking buying jeans when I already have over a dozen of pairs (that I actually wear) in my closet. I'm talking shopping problem. Not normal. Not acceptable. And definitely not good for my bank account. Take this quiz to see if you have a shopping problem too. (FYI, I answered "true" to 8 of the 10 questions. Yikes!)
So, if I have a problem, why do I shop? To be happy of course! There is a rush I get from picking out a great new outfit or an adorable pair of shoes. I love the feeling I get when a new item catches my eye and it's in my size. It literally is a euphoric rush, drug-like and intoxicating. Because it's such a pleasant feeling, I seek it often. It seems much less destructive than drinking or doing drugs or spending time with people who are no good for me, so I allow myself to do it. I tell myself that I've earned it. After all, we can't be expected to give up all of our vices, can we?
The plan today was not to talk about my shopping addiction (though that's somehow crept its way into this post, hasn't it!). The plan is to talk about the idea of happiness in relation to purchasing things. I don't know about you, but up until recently I've secretly believed things would make me happy. I want to say that I didn't believe that, that I was too smart to believe something so silly, but it's true. I'm guilty of believing that a purchase or an experience would bring me that much closer to happiness. And, for brief periods of time, I let that belief become so strong that I actually felt happier after buying or eating or doing something. But the feeling was fleeting, as that type of happiness so often is. Real happiness, lasting happiness, is not for sale -- yet we're constantly faced with the idea that it is.
How should we deal with this? It's not easy (especially for someone like me) to battle the idea that I will be happier if I buy this or that. I want to believe it. It makes it easier. But it's not healthy and it's not true. And who wants to live their whole life believing in a fairytale of happiness? No, not me. I want the real thing. And I'm getting there, slowing but surely...but I'm going to need some help. I'm going to need a plan. A simple, two-step plan, like this one:
- Come up with reasons why happiness should be not for sale to remind me that I'm really not buying "happy" when I buy new things.
- Create an incentive to stop all of my needless shopping by reminding myself how I can create happiness for free. (I can hear my credit cards breathing a sigh of relief right now.)
Here we go...after some careful thought and deliberation...My two-step plan is complete! I hope that if you suffer from any type of shopping problem, you'll learn from and benefit from these two lists. If you're all set with your shopping habits, I hope you'll still take a moment to read these and think about how happiness really shouldn't be for sale. And feel free to add your own ideas and thoughts in the comments! I'd love to hear about whether you agree or disagree with this post.
5 Reasons We Shouldn't Sell Happiness
- Selling happiness teaches us that happiness is outside of our control.
When we believe, as some of us do, that we have to buy something in order to be happy, we begin to feel helpless. Having to purchase something or eat something or experience something to be happy leaves happiness out of our hands. That out-of-control feeling can take over and, in an attempt to quell those anxious feelings, we buy newer and better things, certain those will make us happy. But they won't. Nothing will make you happy in the way that you can make yourself happy and buying things to achieve happiness will only leave you feeling more out of touch with your personal sense of joy.
- Selling happiness promotes a materialistic way of living.
The more we associate happiness with things, the more things we'll want to buy. It makes perfect sense, right? If you get a small burst of happy from buying something, you'll want to buy another thing if you can. (At least, this is what happens to me all the time.) The more we see happiness promoted in advertisements, the more we'll think that we need the things they are selling to be happy. Since SO many advertisements use images of happiness to sell products (try to find more than a few that don't!), we are inundated with this concept all the time. It's hard not to be materialistic when most of us desperately want happiness and we see all of these happy people with all of these things that apparently make them happy. Don't buy in!
- Selling happiness leads to compulsive shopping issues.
Okay, this isn 't a fact. It's my humble opinion that there is probably a close link between desiring happiness and compulsive shopping disorders. When someone (like me!) wants so badly to be happy and sees all of these happy people buying things (even though s/he knows better than to believe these things really bring happiness), it's hard to resist the temptation to shop and shop and shop -- especially when the notion of happiness is seemingly achieved after each purchase. That little rush you get when you buy something just confirms the idea that a thing makes you happy. But, remember, it doesn't. YOU make you happy.
- Selling happiness limits individual happiness potential.
Let's say you think that you can buy happiness. You see all of the commercials. You see all of the happy, happy people with their brightly colored shopping bags at the mall. You want happiness too. But you don't have any money. You might feel (and, again, this isn't necessarily a fact) that you don't have the potential to be as happy as those people. I've heard (and believe) that as long as you are living above poverty level, the amount of money you make doesn't make you any happier. So I'm not talking about being on-the-street poor here. I'm talking about your everyday person who can't afford the latest and greatest items on the market. If that person believes that happiness is a commodity and s/he cannot afford to purchase it, where does that leave his or her happiness potential?
- Selling happiness creates a lot of unhappiness.
Tying in with #4 is this concept. It sounds odd, but selling happiness, marketing it as something that comes with the item/meal/experience you're buying, actually causes unhappiness. (Yes, this is another Dani fact.) Why? Because, while you may get a rush from your purchase, you won't be any happier when you own your new iPod/home/car/clothes. You'll still be you, experiencing the same level of happiness you were before, and that can be a serious letdown. You might look at your recently purchased item and think, "Why don't I feel as good as I should now that I have this?" (Or, even worse, you might ask, "Why do I feel so bad now that I have this?") Relying on things to make you happy actually makes you very unhappy, which is why we shouldn't use happiness as a selling tool.
5 Ways To Create Happiness For FREE!
- Create happiness by sharing happy experiences with others.
Spend time with a beloved pet doing something silly.
Interact with people you don't know and make new friends.
Join a club or start one that focuses on something you love.
Tell someone about a great book, song, or film.
Share a hilarious joke or website with your friends.
- Create happiness by learning more about yourself.
Read great blogs and websites about personal development.
Tell someone a personal story about your life you've never shared.
Share who you are with your friends or online via social media.
Experience new things and write about in a journal or blog.
Go to a highly recommended therapist and explore who you are.
- Create happiness by focusing on the positive in your life.
Look for the good in yourself -- no matter how crummy you feel.
Ask yourself "What is awesome here?" in every situation (even bad ones).
Think often about the people support, love, and encourage you.
Handle relationships with care; they are fragile and should be treated well.
Tell those around you how much you love and need them.
- Create happiness by giving (not spending) your money.
Donate to a local (or national...or international) charity.
Give away old clothes, books, cell phones, etc. to those in need.
Buy something nice for a friend who can't afford it (if you can).
Slip a few dollar bills into the cup of the homeless guy/girl on the side of the road.
Set up an automatic donation to your favorite organization. (So easy!)
- Create happiness by donating your time to those in need.
Help a colleague out with a boring or difficult task.
Volunteer at a local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or charity.
Attend a charity event. (It's fun and a great way to donate!)
Offer to help someone with something you're good at.
Ask your grandparents/neighbors/etc. if they need help with anything.
So now that we all know why I think happiness shouldn't be for sale, we're all going to write letters and sign petitions to fight off the use of happiness in all advertisements, right? Haha, okay, I know, that's just a bit ridiculous. I know why advertisers use happiness. Obviously, we all want to be happy so why not use that very common, very universal desire to sell? It makes perfect sense. I get it. If I were in advertising I'd use it all the time. In fact, I probably do use it in a way on this blog. It's not as if I say you'll be happier if you read it, but I bet someone could argue that's the point I'm trying to make. Anyway, not everything's about me (though it keeps turning into that today!). What this is about is realizing that things -- external, materialistic things -- cannot make you happier. Sure, you might get a rush from them, but you will not, in the long run, be happier. Shop all you want. Buy whatever you want. But be aware of the advertising industry and it's use of happiness. Make sure you're buying things because you need or really want them and not because you think that your next purchase will include a side of happiness. So, readers...
What do you think?
Should we sell happiness?
How can we create happiness for free?
Writing this post took a lot out of me for some reason today. I have so much to say on the subject that I just couldn't seem to organize it all into a collective, sense-making post. What helped a great deal with this was reading about what it means to purchase happiness. Here are some articles you might find interesting. (I especially recommend Gretchen Rubin's post on 8 Tips for How Money Can Buy Happiness ...very interesting!)