So what to do? How can we escape this constant battle for temporary happiness and give ourselves the space to find something more meaningful. Whilst there are no magic wands on offer there are a few simple tips and techniques we can use to stack the deck in our favour.
1. Live simply
"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can leave alone" Henry David Thoreau
"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful" William Morris
The above 2 quotes perfectly sum up the technique here. Look around your house right now, how much stuff in it do you actually need? I mean really need? Chances are it is a tiny percentage. It's time to trim the fat. Whilst it might seem painful there is real value in simplifying. By doing so we are reducing the noise in the system and allowing ourselves to focus on the things that actually add value. When buying something ask whether it will be useful or aesthetic, if neither reject it. If it passes that test ask whether you will be richer for it or by showing that you can live without it. Everything we buy has a consequence, consider the downside as well as the upside.
2. Test your desire
When you want to buy something non-essential i.e. not food or daily essentials, then simply wait 30 days before purchasing it. Stick it on an amazon wishlist or save the link. By doing so you will remove lust and desire from the equation. Chances are you will have forgotten about 90% of potential purchases after 30 days anyway. This also removes much sales shopping and rightly so - if you actually need it you can afford to pay full price.
3. Practice poverty
Many of us live in fear of poverty, of not having things, and we enact this fear by surrounding ourselves with non-essential items to demonstrate to ourselves and others that we are doing ok. By actively practicing poverty you can see that it is far less scary a situation than you might imagine. You will realise that you could actually cope, at least for a short time, and actually there are some things which improve by 'not having' that you might not have considered. Start out by setting aside a couple of days where you can only eat the most basic food, wear cheap clothes, use public transport or walk and sleep in a sleeping bag on the floor.
4. Ask your future self
Many of us get pulled into hedonic adaption as we are living to find short term sources of gratification. Evidence shows that a simple fix for this is to connect with our future selves and ask for advice from them. By doing so we are immediately thinking big picture and negating the desire for short term gratification. Simply ask 'what would my 30/40/50/60 year old self advise I do here'.
As you experiment with these you will find yourself thinking 'this is stupid, I should treat myself to ___, I deserve it'. The fact is that our minds will throw up logic to try and encourage these purchases and to get back on the treadmill. It is part of our evolutionary wiring and unfortunately is one that doesn't suit us all that well in our modern worlds. And if you've got this far and still don't believe me look at the research on lottery winners - on average it only takes 2 months for their happiness levels to fall to where they were at pre-win!