The lack of fulfilment that we humans feel has been dealt with by religions and philosophers for millennia.
The concept that wealth, objects, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses does not make us happy is understood, theoretically, by most people. But still so many of us just have too many Things.
Just read the last words of Very Important People, the thoughts of great thinkers, the wisdom of the elderly. Their words are so often sought by reporters and writers and researchers and shared with us in the news, books, Facebook posts and whole websites devoted to happiness and wellbeing.
They are all searching for the secret to a long and happy life, and they share this knowledge with us freely. Almost invariably they speak of people, nature, service, faith and generosity as the path to long term fulfilment.
And yet… we still long for Things. We ache for More. We search out the next object that we have set our hearts on, to make us happy, the next perfect Thing, that’s going to cheer us up, to add to our collection of the Things that we thought would finally make us feel fulfilled.
But we all know, it’s been said so often, that the happiness we feel is temporary. The boost in the biochemicals that are released when we finally get the next Thing is temporary.
You can see the effect in children. They open plastic packages, then rip open the next and the next. They play and discard, over and over. The vast number of gifts they they are given has numbed them to the joy of receiving that one longed-for toy that they will treasure for a very long time.
We’re not much different as adults. We are searching for joy, over and over, through possessions that we tire of quickly, expensive meals that disappoint and fabulous holidays, only to realise that our life is exactly the same when we return.
I’ve been there, mainly with clothes. Far, far too many clothes, that I rarely wore. The hunt for the perfect thing was so consuming, so “important” and I felt such achievement when I finally bought my trophy home to add to my collection. And yet, after a while I felt deflated and a little down.
Add to that the inability to let things go, for whatever reason – it was expensive, it goes perfectly with that piece (that no longer fits), it might come in handy, it took FOREVER to find, the kids/my mum/friends might need it when they’ve grown up/come to stay/are in a crisis…
So what do we do about it? How do we go about finding that fulfilment, more happiness, more joy? How do we break free from this addiction to Things?
Note – You may wish to consult with your preferred health professional. Moods, depression, anxiety, the blues, even if you can’t name it, it’s good to talk about it and it’s smart to get help.
So ask yourself – What are these Things that you’re buying and hoarding replacing?
Are they replacing an inner sense of self worth? Are they replacing our unique and personal source of joy? Are they replacing friendship with people who value us for our unique selves and not for what we can give them or how we make them feel? Do we even know what these things are or how to get them?
I certainly didn’t until I made some changes in my life, both big and small, and started to declutter my life in every possible way. And then I found my mission, calling, source of joy, whatever you name it, it’s the same thing. It has changed my life.
Your mission is to find your source of joy – it needs to be something that you can take with you where ever you go. It can not be reliant on the presence of a person, child, animal or Thing. There is no guarantee that these will remain with you for your lifetime.
Your personal joy will be with you always. All the other things and people may come and go, and be wonderful and add so much to your life. But they won’t BE your life, your only source of joy and pleasure.
I could repeat all the advice from the Minimalists, happiness researchers and life coaches but that would be a waste of everyone’s time. Please read them, they are excellent. Any helpful piece of advice that you can glean from their words and put into practice will help immensely.
But the best way to find out what your potential source of joy is, is to try different things. Serve your fellow humans, animals or the earth, experiment with meditation, be creative, challenge yourself to learn something new, do something new and scary. Repeat.
Expose yourself to new ideas and meet new people. Talk to them and learn how they live. Make new friends, have lots of new experiences, big and small. Be brave.
Find new ways to boost your happiness. Soon, you might even forget about the Things you were so fixated on. Because you will be having too much fun, living a full life and you will realise that you have enough. You ARE enough.