Shopping, Jay Bildstein, Buying, Consumerism, Shopping 2013, Happiness

Happiness and Consumerism

What makes you happy? Wait. Perhaps, that question is premature. How about this, do you know what happiness is? Let’s get beyond dictionary definitions. What is happiness to you? What makes you happy?

We all seem to be striving for this thing called happiness and, yet, too many of us don’t have a handle on what it is. We have not identified what happiness means to us personally. On the contrary, we have unwittingly fallen into patterns of behavior which we have been told will bring us happiness. Consider, for example, how many of us are caught up in rampant consumerism.

We are ceaselessly influenced by masters of marketing. We go about our days like robots slavishly accepting advertising messages. And those messages always have the same subtext, “Buy this and you will be happy.” Not surprisingly, our patterns of consumption do not lead to greater happiness, at least not for us.

Here’s the deal. With few exceptions, buying something will not bring you any kind of real sustainable happiness. On the contrary, the reckless spending we are so often enticed into leads to unhappiness. It is certainly true that things like food, basic clothing, a clean, safe place to live, reliable transportation and medical care are reasonable and worthwhile things that can help us lead happier lives. So buying those things can help raise our happiness quotient.

However, those things are like the foundation of a well-constructed building. They provide a base upon which greater personal happiness may be constructed. After all, it is difficult for us to be happy if we are starving or if we have no shelter from the elements or if we are sick and cannot afford good medical care. But if we have taken care of those essentials, if we have constructed our foundation, happiness lies not in what we can buy but in our attitude towards life and to what extent we are willing to embrace and pursue our dreams.

In fact, a good attitude towards acquiring the basics of life can make us happy. The quest to provide for ourselves and the ones we love can bring us great joy. That is very different than working to make a superfluous purchase that we think will validate who we are.

Image courtesy of [worradmu] /

*Authors note: You might see this column pop up online in a newspaper, under the name Both Sides. I am publishing this column here first at For a bunch of years, I have been writing newspaper columns. Since my columns have received a good response on CYInterview, I thought I would share it with you. Hope you enjoy.

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