Buying stuff will make you happy …?

If You Want It You Need It!

We have all felt the pull of shopping for something we really want. The sheer pleasure of searching for that item which, on the day we are looking, is hugely important, even life changing. Indeed searching for our goods is often more gratifying than actually owning them. Our unshakable belief in the power of shopping has created modern-day shrines out of shopping-centres – complete with domes, Greek-style statues and marbling.

Wellbeing and Shopping

The Temple of the Trafford Centre (Manchester UK shopping ) even has its own statement of faith

But How Happy Is Everybody Else?

Money and purchasing power is just one of several factors in the Report on World Happiness* commissioned by the UN. Their worldwide study asked two questions:

  1. Are you happy today, right now?
  2. Are you generally happy with your life?

Unsurprisingly, the poorest countries in the world had the lowest happiness ratings in both cases. Wealth does make a difference to people trapped in poverty, but wealth has surprisingly little effect after that. In fact Japan has had no measurable increase in happiness despite a six-fold increase in wealth, and in the US levels of wellbeing have actually decreased over the past 30 years.

Wealth is like health. Its absence breeds misery, but having it doesn’t guarantee happiness” … Liz Hoggard

The report identifies significant factors including our friends, community, health, faith, employment, and family. We’ll look at a few of these in these blogs, from a Christian viewpoint, asking the question: How can we be really happy?

Anxious About Money?

Researchers have identified something they call Status Anxiety. This is where we have the persistent feeling that whatever we don’t have would make us happy if only we had it. The house with the extra bedroom will make us happy. It’ll be so great when we get that new car. If only we could go on vacation to the places we see on TV … the new phone the bigger TV, whatever we don’t have must be the one thing we need. This constant comparing ourselves with whatever we don’t have is fed by powerful advertising imagery and peer pressure. It results in this unsettling “status anxiety”.

Black Friday and Wellbeing

Our first “proper” UK Black Friday, 2014

Yet our experience tells us that when we do acquire the object of our desires, it doesn’t make us happy – or if it does it lasts about a week before we get used to it. Even lottery winners as little as one year later often report status anxiety. They settle in to a new way of living, become accustomed to it and find there are so many new problems to worry about, even new financial problems — they are just surrounded by lots more stuff.

So How Can We Be Really Happy?

Ironically, being grateful, even when we don’t buy anything, is one sure route to personal wellbeing. Gratitude is under-rated. For the poorest in our world simply making it to another day can be a cause for thankfulness. Most of us, however, have forgotten how to be grateful.

I have found that simply remembering the things in life that are good is the greatest and simplest thing I can do to be happy.

RosE Tinted spectacles and being happy

Doing gratitude enables us to see the present through rose-tinted spectacles”  … Ann Morisy…….or maybe they are, for the first time, clear spectacles.

Recalling in prayer all the things that went well today, the health I do have, all the things that could have gone wrong but didn’t; being able to laugh at myself; being in the moment and remembering to enjoy it, whether a conversation, a walk, or a memory; all these are ways I can practice gratitude, and begin to see life itself as a gift. Try it. The contribution to our wellbeing is huge. There will of course be sad occasions where realistically we can’t show gratitude, but mostly, we can. And when gratitude becomes a habit, we develop a sense of resilience which we know will still be there when present troubles have passed.

Are there Bible Verses About Happiness?

Paul understood very well this secret to contentment. It is no accident that he often connects our “peace” with our “thankfulness”:

  • Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts since as members of one body you were called to peace – and be thankful. Colossians, 3.15
  • Do not be worried or anxious but ……… with thanksgiving make your requests to God; and the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your heart and mind” Philippians 4,6–7

Gratitude and being happy

If gratitude is not something you regularly practice, today is a good day to start.

This series of blogs:

Resources: *World Happiness Report, by The Earth Institute; Bothered and Bewildered by Ann Morisy; How to be Happy by Liz Hoggard.

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[…] bring untold blessings to your Christian faith. One of the biggest contributors to my own faith and well-being has been simply remembering to give thanks for the good things in my life that happen – and […]

8 years ago

Would be good to discuss this next
time you are at BBC.

Debbie Styles
Debbie Styles
9 years ago

Fifteen, twenty years ago I would of undoubtedly said “yes” buying things makes you happy, working a 40+ hour week was for me all about getting the wage packet every fortnight and then indulging in fruitless things and activities which made me “happy” with little thought for the future and I was happy and enjoying my life. Today I impulse buy mainly over the net and the majority of the time regret what ive purchased to some extent although I would never amit it especially to nige who as you know is the wage packet of the house. Nigel has a story… Read more »

Lisa DeGunya
Lisa DeGunya
9 years ago

.…God guides us in every way when we pray

Cathy buntin
Cathy buntin
9 years ago

Hi Chris love this article and how true it is I’m guessing one of our assignments inspired this and it is something I have been thinking about. Keep up the good work your stories are very thought provoking and challenging and I love them. It’s amazing how people search for happiness and contentment in So many ways but without fulfilment as this can only be found in Christ Had the pleasure of leading a friend to the Lord after church yesterday she has been searching and seeking in so many things and places and has just realised that God is… Read more »