Becoming Happier and Empowered through Mindful Consumption
“There are two different types of people in the world, those who want to know, and those who want to believe.”
“Sometimes people don't want to hear the truth because they don't want their illusions destroyed.
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Mindfulness became a trendy word in the past decade or so. It has its roots in Buddhism and its core tenets have been used in psychiatry since the 1970s to help people reduce the symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. In recent years it has gained enormous popularity, mostly through the inspiring work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has championed its use in the corporate environment.
It is based on the idea of training the mind not to dwell on issues or emotions that can cause persistent negative thoughts. By use of meditation and breathing techniques we can focus on the present, what is happening around us at a particular moment in time. But I’m not going to write about that here, you can find plenty of sources and courses in the internet.
What does being mindful actually mean? It relates to being thoughtful, aware and present. And this can be applied to everything I do in my daily life.
I grew up watching Die Sendung mit der Maus (The Show with the Mouse) which is one of the most acclaimed children’s programmes on German TV since 1971. Between funny stories, there was always one learning story about daily products and things. The mouse would ask, “Where does our sugar actually come from?” Then the story would take us to the sugar cane fields of Cuba and show us a factory where it is turned into white sugar crystals. This programme planted the seed in me to become a photojournalist later in life. Asking questions, researching and getting to see all sorts of different things made me already happy as a child. As a young teenager, I started to question the food I ate, the cosmetics I used, the impact of industry on our nature.
Unfortunately when people get older they tend to stop watching this amazing programme. Whilst maybe not directly connected to their viewing habits, they might also stop asking questions and just start believing the advertising, disinformation, and the rhetoric of politicians or religious leaders they are confronted with. Often they claim they don’t have the time to question anything. But this means they have shifted responsibility to others who do not necessarily have good intentions. Most big industries have one single objective – making lots of money. I don’ t need to tell you about the pharma, meat, tobacco and dairy industries’ products (the list is endless) that are harmful to your health and wellbeing. But since all industries are interested in making money, WE CONSUMERS HAVE LOTS OF POWER!!! If we make mindful decisions about what we buy, we can have an enormous influence on the state of our environment, our planet and our own wellbeing in all its forms.
This is a great realisation as it leads to feeling of being empowered rather than feeling powerless and helpless. Yet it needs some effort, we have to start asking questions ourselves first, take the time to find answers – something that became much easier with the Internet – and act on it. Take responsibility, change habits, be pro-active.
Here are some of the kind of questions you could ask yourself:
- Hummus last night was tasty, wasn’t it? How do chickpeas grow? On a tree or a bush, and where actually? And the sesame in the tahini that is an ingredient of hummus?
- When I read the ingredients of my shampoo do I understand what is meant? Do I know what sodium lauryl sulphate or cocamidopropyl betaine are? And are these things good for me?
- How does the cashier feel like after a long work day in a windowless hall?
- Where are all the metals in a mobile sourced?
- Why is it normal and accepted that we create lots of rubbish every day?
- Why are there eggs in a cake and could they be replaced? (hint, it’s rarely for taste)
- What happens in my body when I take a painkiller? And is it good for me?
- Where do our meat, milk, vegetables, chocolate, strawberry jam, lentils, ginger, or beer come from? How and where are these things produced?
By looking at each and every product that we use and researching its source, we are probably going to find out that tons of stuff is either unhealthy, ethically not fit for consumption, unnecessary and not environmentally friendly. With this knowledge we can become a MINDFUL CONSUMER! Taking responsibility for our wellbeing and for our shared planet.
You might wonder if the bad things you discover might make you feel upset and angry and you may wish to remain blissfully ignorant. For me this way of questioning and wanting to understand everything is a formula for living a happier life. It sort of goes like that:
Being curious (being aware/alive) – Researching – Taking responsibility (owning my actions) – Feeling empowered – Becoming happier and more content
The Show with the Mouse is now available also in many other languages, here the English version
Trust me you will learn a lot, not just where the sugar comes from!