Without you knowing it, your brain manipulates you into wanting, seeking, desiring and even craving things that will not make you happy.
The creators of these things know this and have exploited you to get what they want.
Here’s how you fight back…
We are wired to want in a world with too many wants
In a study conducted by Dr. Brian Knutson, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Stanford University, he placed a group of people in a brain scanner and told them every time a certain symbol appeared in front of them, they could win money by pressing a button.
When the symbol appeared in front of the participants, the reward center of their brain would light up. Inevitably then, they would hit the button to get the money. But when they actually received the money, the reward center would die down once again.
It wasn’t the money itself that triggered the feeling of a reward, it was the expectation of money.
In response to this study, Dr. Kelly McGonigal said “Anything we think is going to make us feel good will trigger the reward system – the sight of tempting food, the smell of coffee brewing, the 50-percent-off sign in a store window, a smile from a sexy stranger, the informercial that promises to make you rich. The flood of dopamine marks this new object of desire as critical to your survival.”
Dopamine is sometimes called “the joy hormone.” It’s release triggers a desire to chase after the perceived reward that’s waiting for us just a few steps ahead. Evolutionary speaking this was wired into us so we would feel great about looking for food or seeking out a mate to ensure our continued survival.
But we no longer live in a world where survival is a constant concern. Instead we are now bombarded with millions of potential rewards around us, and our brain doesn’t know how to handle it.
We’ve been wired to keep wanting, that’s what dopamine does. However, the result is never as rewarding as we think. That’s why buying that new thing, whatever it may be, will only give you temporary satisfaction, but not true happiness. “Retail therapy,” as I am sure you know by now, does not create long term meaning and fulfillment.
What does it mean to be happy and how do we find it?
One million dollars, six pack abs, your dream house or a fancy car will not make you happy. Happiness is not the results you seek, it is a by-product of the person you become along the journey.
There is a reason why plenty of research has shown that experiences, not things, are the best way to invest your money if you want to live a happier life.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences… By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue, they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness.”
Watch the video below to discover the truth about happiness…
After watching the video, I invite you to start noticing how you are being tricked into wanting things you don’t need based on the promise that they will make you happy. Things like Black Friday deals, or images of sexy models, or beer commercials showing how amazing life is like when you drink, or a video game that keeps promising a big win, or free samples of good in a grocery store, the list is endless…
I want to be very clear, I am not condemning all these things. I just want you to be more conscious as to why and when you are choosing them. There is no right or wrong here. All I want for you is that you make choices from a place of greater awareness, without being manipulated by the world around you. In doing so, you might just find out for yourself what it truly means to be happy.
For me, happiness involves experiences like running 167 miles across Liberia to help build the 1st sustainable vocational training school in postwar Liberia. After running just under a marathon a day for 1 week, I sat down on a beach in Monrovia and was too tired to bring a smile to my face. The reward of the finish line was not joy, but relief that the suffering was over. I was in pure bliss.
When we choose that path worthy of who we are and who we want to be, life will be filled with the kinds of experiences that nurture true happiness. As long as you are living your worthy struggle, you will find that there is beauty throughout the journey, in the highs and the lows.