When was the last time you felt happy?

Three rats in a maze looking at a sign saying Work harder, happiness is just around the corner.

When was the last time you felt real happiness? Was it when you were together with people you like, when you were doing useful work that you’re good at? Was it when you were enjoying music, dancing, arts or sports? Or was it when you bought another product advertised to bring you happiness?

The “need” for more

Every day we’re enticed to buy more. Advertising seduces us, declaring that some new product just beyond our grasp is exactly what we need to complete our lives, make us happy or earn others’ respect.

Advertising agencies and the companies they represent would certainly like us to think more possessions make us happier. But is this really true? Everyone deserves the basic necessities of life. Yet what brings us true happiness can’t necessarily be bought. For many, the keys to contentment are spending time with friends and family, meaningful and rewarding work, and appreciating what we have.

The pitfalls of “living to buy”

For many people, the urge to earn and buy more translates into longer work hours and more stress. And that means less time to actually enjoy life with family and friends.

Some of the things that you buy, use and throw away are dirt cheap, but they’re expensive for the environment. The a huge amount of energy is used in extracting, producing, shipping and disposing materials. It also plays a major part in climate change. Many people, most of them in developing countries, are already paying the price of climate change impacts.

What’s more, the raw materials and labour that feed global consumption often come from poorer countries. In these places, human rights violations and lack of environmental regulation conspire to keep prices low. Over-consumption by the wealthy translates into sweat shops, child labour and environmental destruction for people who are already vulnerable.

We chop down trees to produce paper and furniture, blow up mountains to make metals, drill for oil to make plastics and use a huge amount of fossil fuels to manufacture products. And the truth is that we are running out of all these natural resources.

lower, simpler, better for all

Working harder to make more money and buy more “stuff” is no guarantee to a happy life. In fact, a slower and simpler lifestyle doesn’t just benefit us, it’s better for the whole planet, and those who depend on it. What about when you really do need to buy something?