Paradoxically, the wealthier societies become, the more depressed people get. Furthermore, experts suggest the amount of choice we have as consumers may be causing illness and depression.
Choice is presented as a good thing, and price comparison web sites confirm that out there is the perfect product, at the best price, and it will give us the most satisfaction or the greatest thrill. All we have to do is search for it. The subliminal message being ‘if we don’t, we’ll miss out’ and ultimately – our dreaded nightmare – we’re ‘losers’.
The higher our expectations that we will make the right decisions to give us maximum pleasure, the higher our chances of disappointment and [spoiler alert] with disappointment comes that sinking feeling: a sense of failure. A recurring sense of failure can lead to illness and depression.
Much of this goes on unquestioned: the concept of maximum choice and perfect products presupposes that everything we ever have has to be the best, when we can manage very well with it being ‘good enough’.
Giving ‘thanks’ and feeling connected
The fear of losing is about what’s wrong with us – rather than appreciating what we have. As a schoolgirl in England many years ago we had to say ‘Grace’ before eating school lunch – “For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly grateful”. I remember as a child my grandparents insisting we said it before Sunday lunch but I didn’t understand why.
I experienced it again recently when staying with friends in the US; holding hands around the table, closing our eyes, and giving thanks for the food before us and inviting people to think about all those at home and overseas who are hungry and in poverty, and giving thanks and appreciation for the love and friendship of friends and family.
If you haven’t done this recently and are prepared to be in the moment, listen to the words and feel the connectedness with others; it has a surprising intensity and humility.
Appreciating what we have
Things can only get better when we appreciate what we’ve got. The more we value what we have, the less we will be seeking satisfaction, fulfilment or reward through more consumption of products, which ultimately, may only provide temporary happiness.
Feeling and expressing gratitude enables us to be in the ‘now’, to contemplate how we might be in our life: to be mindful of things and experiences we value, to open ourselves up to new experiences and the possibility of personal growth and maturity.
© Mary Evans Young
Mary Evans Young lives in Oxfordshire, England
Mary is co-author of Ageing with Attitude