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Achieving greater happiness with less effort

Colleen Thorpe

Executive Director

Published on 

I was recently walking around my neighbourhood when I came across a beautiful chair, just sitting on the sidewalk. I’m always surprised to see objects like this one, in good condition, abandoned on the curb. I thought the chair would be perfect for my office and I was filled with joy because some unknown person had just left me a gift! Then inevitably, I started to ask myself all sorts of questions, reflecting on the type of lifestyles we are leading.

In today’s consumer society most of us have, at one time or another, fallen prey to the belief that happiness is achieved by accumulating material possessions. A shopping list that is as relentless as it is perpetual—a bigger car, a larger house, a nicer wardrobe and newer gadgets.

But unbridled consumption is not without consequences. It has a huge impact on our planet. Increased greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), wasted resources, and excessive amounts of garbage. It also has a huge impact on workers, who often have poor working conditions and low pay. And the impacts that it has on our well-being... well, not in the best way, obviously.

We are constantly (though sometimes unconsciously) comparing ourselves with others, to be the one who has the most, who travels the most... and by comparing ourselves to others we create anxiety. I often say that we produce as much anxiety as we do GHGs. We need to reduce our emissions, we need to work to reduce our anxiety levels and we need to focus on what truly brings us happiness.

The good news is that there is a growing body of research on the subject and we now have a better understanding of what makes us happy. Neuroscience has taught us that happiness results more from the connection between people than from the accumulation of material goods. And studies show that beyond a certain salary (one that is enough to cover basic needs), our happiness hardly increases at all*.

So the solution is there, within our grasp: consume less and better, in order to be happier, together. It’s not easy to shift our perceptions and to embrace a different type of lifestyle, especially when we live in a system that pressures us to consume. But we can start by initiating conversations about simplicity and the happiness economy to try to identify collective solutions. This shift towards “less and better” will be the focus of an upcoming campaign. Stay tuned!

At Équiterre, we are fortunate to benefit from the talents and wisdom of Nadine Bachand, our Senior Agriculture and Food Analyst, who has explored the search for happiness in her book entitled Méditer - La Terre vue de l’intérieur: coffre à outils pour incarner la paix. According to Nadine, cultivating a sense of caring and kindness is essential if we want to create a more supportive and environmentally responsible society. A beautiful message.

It’s time to curb the insidious impacts of hyper consumption on our lives and on the environment. Working harder and harder just to be able to afford a new chair and throw away the old one does not bring happiness. Opening ourselves up to a healthier lifestyle and reconnecting with ourselves and the world around us, can.

Colleen Thorpe
Executive Director

Salaire et bonheur au travail: est-ce que les deux vont de pair? (in French)