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External Happiness: An American Syndrome

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(Photo by: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(Photo by: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

(CBS Radio) — Have you ever thought back to when you were a child and realized that back then, the simplest things made you happy?

It’s inevitable that people age, but why is it that as we get older we start looking for things that will “make us happy,” rather than appreciating the simple things that truly lead to our happiness?

As adults, why are most of us only “happy” when we have an inflated bank account, when we buy a shiny new car, or when we buy the latest and greatest gadget?

And lastly, when did we start replacing our internal happiness for external happiness?

Well, how about we get to the bottom of all this misery…I mean, uh “happiness.”

As children, we didn’t care about how big our parents house was, how much money we had in our piggy bank, or what kind of wagon we were riding around in. Instead, the majority of us spent our early years rather care-free — free of responsibility and worry. And then, something changed…

As we grew older, the simple things in life rarely phased us — if we noticed them at all. This is partly because the simple things weren’t new to us anymore. Instead of appreciating things like a warm hug, taking a walk in nature or watching the rain fall, we ignored the little things because there were bigger and better things that could “make us happy,” right?

And for some reason, we eventually adopted this notion that material possessions make us happy — that the more things we have, the happier we are. Do material possessions really make us happy? Well, yes….and no!

Buying things and owning material objects brings about a false sense of happiness, when we first take ownership of the new item. But, the more material possessions we own, the more time we spend working to keep them, instead of living a care-free life. Furthermore, material possessions only bring us short-lived happiness. Eventually, the new item becomes old and boring, and we look for something else that will make us happy. It becomes a vicious cycle — which could easily be labeled as an American Syndrome.

I’m not suggesting that Americans should quit their jobs, give up their material possessions, or live like cavemen — but, I am suggesting that people take a closer look at their lives and evaluate their happiness, as in…true happiness. Did that last shopping spree really make you happy, or are you more depressed now than ever at your mounting credit card debt? In hindsight, a better way to have spent your time might have been to take a drive in the country, call a friend and catch up, or go on a nice long walk.

After all, life is short. Wouldn’t it be nice to look back one day and count all of your happy moments, rather than your wealth and/or material possessions? In the end, people do not remember you for what you had, they remember you for the person you were.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Radio

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