“Is Consumerism Preventing Us from Being Happy?”

Choices, choices everywhere. Keeping up with the latest fashion and gadgets is not just cash-intensive but also time-consuming. Think about it this way: What else could you be doing with the time not spent consuming?

First things first: Where does the notion that “the more you have the happier you become” originate? Certainly not from Adam Smith, the father of modern capitalism. In How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life, Russ Roberts describes Smith’s lifelong preoccupation with the question of how to live a good life. Smith explicitly warned about confusing happiness with wealth, insisting that personal happiness requires earning praise and respect. Roberts goes on to describe modern-day examples of people forgoing wealth to pursue their values – without regret:

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How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

Adam Smith, known for his homage to capitalism, The Wealth of Nations, also wrote an insightful guide to happiness.

Russ Roberts Portfolio

Research on happiness has quite consistently found that accumulating more things won’t make us any happier once we have achieved a comfortable standard of living. In The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky describes factors that will. Happiness, she writes, is mostly a state of mind – which you can achieve by pursuing activities and developing ways of thinking that enhance your well-being:

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The How of Happiness

Unhappy? Take a scientific approach and get happy. You’ll be happy to know it works

Sonja Lyubomirsky Penguin

A hallmark of Western consumer capitalism is the cornucopia of choice offered to consumers. But does the ability to choose between 20 different shapes of jeans increase your quality of life? In recent years, consumers in the United States have spent more time shopping while enjoying it less, observes Barry Schwartz in The Paradox of Choice. The seemingly endless range of options available can be overwhelming, if not paralyzing. “As the number of choices we face increases,” the author writes, “freedom of choice eventually becomes tyranny of choice.” Looking at some of your recent choices, how much effort did you expend – in time, research and emotional agonizing? And how much did the outcome benefit you? Schwartz recommends that you identify categories of decisions for which you could use simple rules of thumb to minimize the cognitive and psychological burden:

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The Paradox of Choice

Professor Barry Schwartz explores the human struggle with endless choices that often leads to personal dissatisfaction.

Barry Schwartz Ecco

A consequence of our consumerism is overfilled garages and the urge to move into bigger places. But having too many things can prevent us from enjoying the items that fill us with joy. Marie Kondo’s classic, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, offers a unique method of parting with the things that don’t serve us. Living in tidy surroundings filled with items we love and memorabilia that evoke positive memories will likely give a bigger boost to your sense of well-being than continuing to accumulate the latest gadgets:

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The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Kondo shows you how to declutter your home, office and stuff, and thereby unleash your soul and your life.

Marie Kondo Ten Speed Press

Buying material things only offers a temporary boost in happiness. Simplify your choices and possessions – and you will free up time to enjoy what truly matters in life.

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