How to Be Happy

alex atkins bookshelf cultureHow many times have you heard someone say, “I just want to be happy.” Unfortunately, it is not easy to find happiness when each day you are bombarded with thousands of ads and brand messages to convince you that you are not happy until you purchase, lease, eat, drink, smoke, wear, or use the latest and greatest products. Buy now! Order yours today! See the results tomorrow!

Research by Media Dynamics, Inc. and other recent studies have found that each day a person sees an average of 362 ads per day, consuming up to 6 hours of your day. But even more startling is that each day a person sees from 3,000 to 20,000 brand exposures — labels or logos on just about every product, article of clothing, signage, billboards, magazines junk mail, as well as digital ads on websites, videos, emails, and tweets. Realize, of course, that Google and Facebook are essentially advertising companies — a large portion of their revenue comes from collecting as much data about you and then exposing you to very targeted, personalized ads so that you can buy more stuff… so you can be happy.

This incessant advertising plays a very key role in the economy: companies make a profit and grow by selling you lots of stuff — mostly stuff you want but don’t actually need. However, herein lies the subtle but insidious effect of advertising — it does so at the expense of your mental well-being, your self esteem, your soul. The role of advertising is make you feel bad about yourself, about your life, about the stuff you currently own in order to promote the myth that happiness is a goal, that happiness is just a purchase away. And when you don’t find happiness in that particular product, they are ready to sell you the upgrade, the new and improved version. In effect, advertisers and the companies they work for place you on the treadmill of endless consumption and acquisition. So how can we find happiness?

The antidote to this mindless consumerism is to embrace the age-old wisdom promoted by the ancient Greeks that essentially states that happiness is not found in things, but rather within. And the Greeks were wise enough to know that happiness is not a goal;  Eleanor Roosevelt said it best: “Happiness is not a goal… it’s a byproduct of a life well lived.” Amen sister.

Ponder this liberating thought for a moment: if everyone were happy, advertising would not flourish because it would be so difficult to promote so many products to people who understood that they didn’t need them. You wouldn’t be bombarded with 362 ads a day, freeing up six hours each day. Achieving happiness begins by dismissing advertising’s constant efforts to belittle who you are and embracing the wisdom of how to be happy promulgated by the notable philosophers. Who knew that being happy was so inexpensive and affordable?

Epictetus: “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.” 

Immanuel Kant: ““We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.” 

John Stuart Mill: “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”

Plato: “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”

Socrates: “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.”

Socrates: “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”

Socrates: “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”

Lao Tzu: ““Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

Read related posts: The Paradox of the American Dream
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks
Doublets: The Value of Wisdom
The Virtue of Wisdom
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of a Grandmother


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