The conveyer belt of happiness
People differ in many wonderful ways, be it through culture, race, religion, political views, gender... the list goes on. Even though these differences exist which help build and maintain a diverse and beautiful world, I believe there is one dominant force that unites us all, and that is the pursuit of happiness.
Through this unity, there will, of course, be differences in the way people think about happiness, but the majority of the time this pursuit of that warm fuzzy feeling is conceptualised in the form of the external.
To help us on our journey to happiness, we are generously offered daily reminders of just how easy this journey can be. Without any effort on our part, we are fed relentless streams of content continually representing ideals that only a minute ago we were dreaming of. Ideals that, if we follow, often blindly and without challenge, we too can reach this place of happiness.
Automatic ways of thinking are often not challenged and deeply entrenched within all of us, and it feels perfectly natural to think ‘If I lose some weight, bleach my teeth white, get a new haircut, get that dream job or drive the latest car, I too can and will be happy, and that’s all I need to do’.
We may all remember a magic trick that we were dazzled by, where we followed the magicians every word and movement, while they paint this exciting adrenaline fuelled landscape of intrigue and mystery, completely absorbed in the narrative, all our senses heightened and our focus strong. While following the story and listening intently, we don’t always notice what is going on behind ‘the magic’.
I believe media and advertising campaigns work on this same level, and it is this automatic and unchallenged thinking that reinforces our pattern of consuming. If we keep buying the latest ‘this’ and the latest ‘that’, we will, even if it’s only temporarily, be happy.
The most popular and frequently used media platforms nurture a sense of perfection and ideals that so often don’t mirror the true feelings of the people we are all looking at, but it does paint a very attractive picture.
What concerns me is that, in my lifetime, I have seen incredible leaps in technology and the products on offer. Robot hoovers are now a thing, and you can watch one TV programme while recording three more! There are devices that you can talk to and tell them what you want done, mobile phones that are quicker and smarter than ever before! No more waiting, as everything is instant. We can have everything now, and if now isn’t quick enough there will be an option to get it even quicker!
Witnessing this advancement and development while working as a therapist, I haven't seen a decline in people that are suffering, or an increase in those that have found happiness in material wealth. The raw truth is people seem even more unsatisfied and disconnected with the world and, more importantly, with who they are, but still remain transfixed - even mesmerised - with the notion of happiness and fulfilment promised by consuming and acquiring more stuff.
If we were to demonstrate this concept in a graph, and I always hated graphs at school, the increase in consuming products does not equal an increase in more happiness.
The answer unfortunately has never been, and never will be, found in either the pursuit or the acquisition of external material wealth.
It is true that while smugly sliding into the seat of a new car can create an instantly recognisable feeling of something quite wonderful, no sooner has it arrived it swiftly starts to evaporate, and we start the automatic cycle of looking for the next ‘thing’ that will kindly offer us that intoxicating feeling, and why wouldn’t we? It feels really nice!
My concern is that we are a society built predominantly on the basis of what we own or can own in the future. We can rapidly lose the importance of being a society of people, people that offer insight, culture, cuddles, laughter, friendships, love, and joy, in my view far more wholesome and nourishing than the latest phone or computer game.
Find the right counsellor or therapist for you
All therapists are verified professionals.