Money can’t buy you happiness, or can it? In North America, everyone has the freedom to spend their hard-earned money as they deem fit. But unfortunately, more and more people are associating their happiness with the purchases that they make. Firstly, the concept of retail therapy, and the brain’s capacity to release dopamine, deceives people into believing that what they’re buying is making them happy. In addition, there is a misconception that owning the latest trends and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ will somehow lead to a more fulfilling and happier life. Lastly, the Bible teaches that true happiness cannot be attained through possessions, but through a deep and selfless relationship with God.
Many people look towards material objects in order to fulfill an emotional void. The act of buying something can often provide an individual with an immediate ‘high,’ or a feeling of excitement. But once that ‘high’ wears off, they are once again left with an empty void that needs to be filled. This link between shopping and emotions is widely known as, retail therapy. “Retail therapy is shopping with the sole purpose of improving one’s mood or making one happier.”(Angers, Laura) When someone purchases something new, the dopamine receptors in their brains are triggered, these receptors cause people to experience a rush. “Doing something we find rewarding lights up the brain's pleasure centre...this leads to a surge in the release of dopamine to the neurotransmitter, which makes us feel good and motivates us to repeat the behaviour.” (Brockis, Jenny). Furthermore, in today’s modern world, buying things is easier than ever, and thanks to technology, credit cards, and online shopping, people can experience that ‘dopamine hit’ almost instantly. Unfortunately, once the excitement of the new purchase wears off, they are right back where they started. “The pursuit and purchase of physical possessions will never fully satisfy our desire for happiness. It may result in temporary joy for some, but the happiness found in buying a new item rarely lasts longer than a few days.' (Becker) In contrast, when an individual fails to purchase a product that they desire, they are left with feelings of disappointment or sadness; “researchers found that when people chose not to buy, they saw greater activity in the insula, the region of the brain which deals with feelings of loss.” (Thorpe, JR) These feeling of sadness further highlights the direct link between emotions and buying. This relationship often deceives individuals into believing that they are content or fulfilled because of the object that they have purchased, when in fact, it’s just their brain playing tricks on them.
Happiness plays an extremely important role in human life, it is defined as a feeling of being satisfied, content, or fulfilled. But the constant barrage of celebrity influence found on social media, has had a huge impact on society's perception of true happiness. Athletes, socialites, musicians, and actors fill our devices daily with selfies of all the latest ‘must haves’ that will surely make our lives better. To make matters worse, we are also bombarded by glamourous pictures of luxuries from our very own family and friends. These images leave us feeling inadequate about our own status, desperately wanting to own what they own, in order to achieve their same level of contentment. Author Brene Brown states, “I see the cultural messaging everywhere that says that an ordinary life is a meaningless life.' (Daring Greatly, p. 23). This quote demonstrates how people are being persuaded into believing that their lives don’t measure up. So, in their quest to ‘Keep up with the Joneses,’ people are buying things they do not want or need because they falsely believe that it will bring them happiness. Furthermore, advertisers do an excellent job promising the public that their products will bring them instant gratification. Advertisers
understand that by evoking positive emotions in their ads, they will sell more products. “There is a huge opportunity for brands and advertisers to give the people what they want and lift the mood of the world.” (Unruly website) This understanding that people associate their happiness to the things that they buy, creates an endless cycle of buying. The public becomes manipulated into believing that they need the next new product in order achieve the façade of being as happy as the ‘Joneses.’
Happiness can be analyzed from a religious standpoint as it is a common theme in the Bible. The Bible states that happiness is a by-product of loving God and warns against amassing possessions or treasures. For many people, their personal happiness is their top priority, placing emphasis on their own feelings before all else. It is this pursuit of happiness which causes many to fall into the trap of relying on tangible, man-made objects for their happiness rather than on God. Placing one’s happiness in things rather than in God, will inevitably lead to disappointment in the long run. Psalm 37:4 states; “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). This passage demonstrates how important it is to have a deep and faithful relationship with God in order to achieve true happiness. In order to receive happiness in the kingdom of God, people must be willing to let go of their earthly belongings and make God a priority in their lives. This concept is emphasized in the Bible when a rich man asks Jesus what he can do to acquire eternal life, Jesus responds by saying; “If you want to be perfect, then go and sell all that you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven.” (Matthew 19-21) When the rich man heard Jesus’ response; he became sad. The rich man felt sadness because he didn’t want to let go of his belongings and wealth, he had made the common mistake of tying his happiness to his possessions. The joy that God’s love provides is unconditional, constant, and reciprocal, unfortunately the same cannot be said about possessions. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” (Matthew 6:19-20) In today’s world people are so preoccupied with materialistic gains that they have convinced themselves that the more they own, the happier they will be. But by putting their faith in possession, they have lost all hope of happiness.
In conclusion, happiness is something that everyone aspires to obtain. It is a universal desire that many spend their lives searching for. Unfortunately, many people are mistakenly associating their happiness with the things that they buy. Firstly, the concept of retail therapy, and the brain’s capacity to release dopamine, deceives people into believing that what they’re buying is making them happy. In addition, there is a misconception that owning the latest trends and ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ will somehow lead to a more fulfilling and happier life. Lastly, the Bible teaches that true happiness cannot be attained through possessions, but through a deep and selfless relationship with God. “Happiness is not a chase, but a realization.” (Rebecca Nylaja)
- Angers, Laura. “What is Retail Therapy.” https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/what-is-retail-therapy/
- Becker, Joshua. “9 reasons buying stuff will never make you happy.”https://www.becomingminimalist.com/buying-stuff-wont-make-you-happy/
- Brockis, Jenny. “Here’s exactly why shopping feels so damn good.” https://www.mamamia.com.au/why-shopping-feels-good/
- Thorpe, JR. “Why does shopping feel good?” https://www.bustle.com/p/why-does-shopping-feel-good-44461
- “Retail Therapy and the power of the Impulse buy.”https://www.dacgroup.com/blog/retail-therapy-and-the-power-of-the-impulse-buy/