How to Find Happiness Without Shopping for It

by Tammy Strobel on April 13, 2010

Americans should be happy right? We have lots of cool gadgets, big houses, and cars. It turns out shopping for happiness isn’t working out very well.

In 2009, the United States was rated 114th out of 143 countries evaluated on the Happy Planet Index. The Happy Planet Index “looks at how happy a country is compared with how many resources it uses.” Americans use a lot of resources but aren’t very happy.

On an individual level, I think people are more likely to find happiness by living a simpler lifestyle, letting go of fear, and creating time to pursue passions. Below are a few tips to get you started.

1. Discover your passion and turn away from fear.

The dividing line is between those who do something and those who do nothing. ~Derrick Jensen

Figure out what turns you on and do something. For example that something might be working on social justice issues, helping the homeless in your city or reducing plastic and fossil fuel waste. Life is about more than money and self imposed limitations. We all need to let go of fear.

The key to finding happiness is discovering your passion and turning away from fear. Don’t listen to the naysayers and dream zappers. You can pursue your dreams. By turning away from fear you will become empowered and find purpose in your life by starting to help your loved ones and the places you care about. Only then will you find true happiness.

Mirco-actions: Set aside a few hours and start mind-mapping. Consider answering some of these questions:

  • What goals are your life goals?
  • What turns you on? What are your passions?
  • What activities make your skin crawl?
  • What brings you a sense of accomplishment?
  • What are your life values? Are you living by your values?

2. Create time to figure out what you really love.

If you constantly run from meeting to meeting and have your evenings and weekends packed with events, it’s time to start saying “no”. Say “no” to extra obligations. Instead use that time to figure out what you really love.

Living a simpler lifestyle will give you the time and freedom to cultivate your interests. Don’t fall into the trap of doing what everyone else does. You don’t have to watch 5 hours of T.V. everyday or work in a cubicle to earn a pension. There are options. However, it’s essential to make time to figure out what those options are. Ignoring your unhappiness and walking through life as a human robot is not a solution.

Micro-actions: Set time aside everyday to work on your true passions. Pour yourself into a project of your choice, even if you only have a half an hour everyday. (Do this instead of watching T.V.)

3. Say no to conspicuous consumption.

Get off the work-watch-spend treadmill. And say no to conspicuous consumption.

You don’t have to trade your time or money for a “cool” identity, a car or a big house. Trading your time and money for manufactured stuff is more likely to result in higher levels of debt rather than happiness.

Micro-actions: Think about your daily life. What are your consumption, work, sleeping and eating patterns like? Are you making conscious decisions about these areas of your life or just going through the motions?

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1 Luke @ simplifi.de April 13, 2010

One of the things that amazes me about simplicity is how everything is inter-related… to discover your passion and create time to figure out what you love, you’re going to have to say no to conspicuous consumption. And to turn away from fear, you’ll have to create that time…

Looking forward to next two posts in the series!

2 Tammy April 13, 2010

@Luke – Everything is interconnected. I think it’s important to remember that concept. It’s something Annie emphasized in The Story of Stuff. Specialization can be a good thing, but it’s important to back up at look at issues from a holistic perspective too. Thanks for reading!

3 puerhan April 13, 2010

What is interesting about this exploration of “Finding Happiness” (not just on your blog) is that many if not all aspects of the solutions point towards letting go of / removing things rather than adding anything. If this is considered deeply (eg through meditation) then it is possible to discover that happiness is actually already here in all of us. And, as your post points out, many aspects of “modern living” obscure happiness from our day-to-day experiences. We are so heavily conditioned to believe that we aren’t happy and need to look for it somewhere outside of our very self. And so heavily conditioned that happiness is something special – like intense pleasure or stimulation of various kinds – but when happiness is present and we experience it, in some ways it is actually very ordinary, and so kind of hard to describe!

Thank you for your on-going contribution of deep goodness!

4 Tammy April 13, 2010

@Mara and puerhan – I agree with your perspective. I might add a chapter on meditation in my next ebook. It’s such a powerful exercise. Thanks for leaving such thoughtful comments. :)

5 Mara April 13, 2010

great post. i also agree with puerhan’s comment “if this is considered deeply (eg through meditation) then it is possible to discover that happiness is actually already here in all of us.” it is amazing what a little bit of reflection can accomplish. looking forward to the next posts.

6 Jenny April 14, 2010

Hi Tammy! I love reading your blog, your articles always inspire me and it was actually reading your blog and a few others that has been motivating me to try and change my life. I have always been a minimalist in many aspects of my life because I have always hated clutter but I do spend alot of money that I do not need to spend because I think it will create happiness and the title of this article felt like it was written for me! haha. I think it is important to remember what we really love because when I write that down and look at it I see that there are plenty of things I would rather do than go shopping, I just have to remember that. I can’t wait to read more from you! You should consider doing inspiring videos on youtube as well, I know people would just love them!

7 Tammy April 16, 2010

Hey Jenny – I’ve been thinking about doing a few vlogs. Plus it would be fun to try a different form of media. :)

I’m super excited you found this post helpful. Good luck on your minimalist journey and thanks for reading RowdyKittens!

8 Tyron April 14, 2010

Hi Tammy. I love your Micro-Action suggestions, they help me a lot:) I draw little pictures to make me happy, It’s become a ritual for me to doodle out my feelings and perspectives and problems. It sounds silly but once I’ve finished a doodle I feel happy, I suppose it could be a tiny form of meditation, being in a creative zone. Anyway… love your blog as usual:)

9 Tammy April 16, 2010

@Tyron – I’m sure drawing is a great way to relax. I feel similar when I take photos and write. I get into a flow and lose track of time. It’s kind of like meditation. :)

10 Todd Schnick April 15, 2010

It helps when you realize there is something special you want to spend more time with. Once you do, then you cannot wait to simplify your life to achieve “more time” with that special someone, cause, or goal. Can’t wait for the rest of series.

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