Does Having Make us Happy?

By Mary Jaksch

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.
– Lao Tzu

Spend five minutes watching TV ads and you’ll know what makes us happier. In the eyes of the advertiser, that is. A new car, diamond earrings, a new kitchen, carpets, house, overseas travel – everything that adverts offer us pretends to be a magic pill that will make us happier.

But does it?


Actually, it does.
I remember a time when I was so small that I had to stretch to see over the table. My parents bought me a  pair of shiny red shoes. And I loved them! I loved them so much that I put them under my pillow at night.
I can’t remember what happened next. But I suppose it is what always happens after we get a new toy. Scuff marks appear on the new shoe, or you drive you car into a hedge and get scratches over the gleaming paintwork. You put down a hot pot on the new kitchen bench and can’t get rid of the burn mark. Your new shiny thing ages.
So, yes – buying something new does make you feel happier. But only for a short while. That’s what our consumer society is built upon. Because when the thrill wears off, we need to go shopping again.

The beauty of less

A minimalist embraces the beauty of less, the aesthetic of spareness, a life of contentedness in what we need and what makes us truly happy. ~ Leo Babauta in The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life

I’ve recently been thinking about the difference between the mind of having, and the mind of being. These two are completely different ways to experience life. In a commercial society, everything is for sale, and everything needs to have a benefit.
The focus on benefits is all about having. What we’ve lost sight is that there is also being. If you look at the question below, you’ll see how limited the ‘having’ mindset is:
What is the benefit of being alive?
That questions is absurd, isn’t it? It just doesn’t make sense. Because being alive is – well – about being. And not about having.
In our consumer society, the mind of having is predominant. Our value in society is measured not by how we are, but by what we have. Everything turns into a lifestyle accessory when we look at it from the perspective of ‘having’ – even love or friendship.
One of the ways to escape the trap of having is the way of Minimalism
I’ve recently come across a thought-provoking book by Leo Babauta, called The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life. In it he describes simple ways of escaping consumerism, in order to heighten happiness.
What is a minimalist life?
It is a life, say Leo, “that is stripped of the unnecessary, to make room for that which gives you joy…It’s not a life of nothing, of boringness. It’s a life of richness, in less.”
How to become a minimalist
Leo sets out four steps that help us embrace a life of minimalism:

  • Start by realizing you already have
  • Start cutting back on clutter and
  • Start simplifying your schedule.
  • Slowly edit everything you do.

These are four simple principles that we can start applying immediately.
It seems to me that the principles of minimalism – which also find expression in spare Zen aesthetics – are a practical way to  foster spirituality in one’s life.
The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life has a minimalist price tag of $9.95. Leo is giving $5000 of the proceeds to a worthwhile cause, Guampedia. I think it’s a great read!

You can find out more about the book here.


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About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.


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