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Monday, August 10, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 32 - Materialism VS Happiness

Davidd, Flickr

"They look happier than I've ever been. Is it living simply that I'm looking for?" 

(Levin, in Anna Karenina.)

We might know it, sometimes it doesn't hurt to remind ourselves of what does and does not foster happiness.

And what better way to do it than watch a documentary on happiness? In 75 minutes, "Happy" takes you around the world and into the offices of the big names in "happiness writing", such as Sonja Lyubomirsky, Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, Matthieu Ricard, and the Dalai Lama.

What are the first things we learn? That there are some big traps in the pursuit of happiness. They include pursuing goals such as money, fame and beauty. According to research, none of those, past an initial but ephemeral thrill, will significantly increase your happiness. Imagine: there would be no notable difference in happiness between the person who makes $50,000 a year and the one who makes $5,000,000. As long as you don't live below the poverty line (which would imply struggling to fulfill basic needs such as shelter and food), you are fine! How's that for evidence toward the relevance of minimalism. And if status and physical appearance don't really cut it either, there suddenly is a lot of room in your life for... simplicity.

Now you might wonder what has been shown to increase happiness levels! Here it is:

  • fun (to play, to laugh)
  • physical activity
  • nature
  • purpose
  • change
  • social interactions (and a strong social circle)
  • cooperation
  • helping others
  • working reasonable amounts

To this I would add creativity (any art form will do) and meditation.


I realized this week that there are a few things in the house I might never replace once they run out. Namely:

  • Traditional cleaning products. We already don't use many, I don't see why I would ever buy anything else but vinegar, lemon juice and baking soda, since they work so well.
  • Shampoo. Baking soda has been my shampoo for months now, and I am not going back. My hair is much shinier, and easier to style.
  • Scented products. And environmentally-unfriendly products in general. My soaps, detergents and such are slightly more expensive, but they keep my family and the planet healthy.

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. When in high school I had a poor friend that told me, the best things in life are free! He had never heard the saying, he just sincerely felt that way. I also knew a guy in med school that told me all he wanted was a little sailboat one day. These guys are probably doing very well now because they choose happiness over materialism.

    So did I. That materialistic hook never got me :-)

    1. Wonderful! And, it's okay to feel tempted once in a while (after all, materialistic temptation is everywhere), as long as you quickly remind yourself of the true nature of happiness. :-)

  2. Street garage sale this weekend...time to get rid of more stuff. Yippee!! Sadly I did give in to purchase a book...one of my favourite bloggers, people, authors.

  3. Have you also seen "I AM"? It is the same producer. Incredible documentary. Much better than Happy. You can get it on YouTube or at the library or on Netflix. I don't buy much, but I had to buy that DVD because I watch it over and over. It is just that good!


  5. I've always liked this ... " It's not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness." (Charles Spurgeon)

    All the best Jan

  6. have you heard of 100 happy days?