Money, where it comes from and what it can buy, is not everything. In our society, the economy gets way too much attention – in policy-making and political rhetoric, in the media, even in the education system. This is amplified by the unrelenting bombardment of advertising and promotional messages the average person faces every single day.
Needless to say, the economy is an important part of the system of society – but it’s not that important. Furthermore, the obsession with the economy is unhealthy, unsustainable and frankly, wrong. We are led to believe that if something has no exchange (monetary) value then it has no real value. In reality, the opposite is more correct. People have always had the economic realities of life to deal with and it is a given that people rely on necessary resources supplied by the economy to achieve well-being. However, well-being does not just come from the resources an economy provides, far from it. It should be stressed that the economy is a subdivision of society, yet unfortunately, in our culture, it tends to be considered the other way around.
With too much importance put on the production and consumption of goods and services, the non-economic aspects of life and society are not given enough attention. From cultural, religious and community activities to social, family and individual activities the best things in life usually have very little to do with the economy, and sometimes nothing at all. Some businesses have realised this fact and therefore attempt to commoditise and ‘monetise’ non-economic aspects of life. In spite of this cynical profiteering, people can still find the best things in life with little cost.
Here are a few non-economic aspects that provide some of the best things in life:
Friendly interactions with people are better for making you happy and healthy than having the latest gizmo. Having a relationship with someone doesn’t really cost anything. Yes, you can buy gifts, cook or take someone out for dinner, but it isn’t necessary. A good conversation is free, but it could make your day. Spending quality time with people you like and care about is priceless.
A side benefit of socialising with family and friends is that it tends to reduce everyone’s ecological footprint. Read more about social consumption»
Culture and creativity
Most cultural activities are free or are relatively cheap. Many cultural services are free, from public radio and television to libraries, museums and the internet. Art galleries, botanic gardens and many historic sites are free. Performances by theatres, musicians, comedians and the like are often cheap and sometimes free. People get enormous satisfaction from being creative themselves; painting, sculpting, pottery, poetry, playing an instrument – they are all free or cheap.
Cultural and creative consumption also tends to be more sustainable, read more about creative consumption here»
Sport, recreation and exercise
It doesn’t cost anything to get your blood pumping. You can walk, hike, run, bike, swim, throw a ball or a frisbee. For relatively little money you can go camping, kayaking, skiing or surfing. You can go to a gym, do yoga or pilates, you can join a sports team, or play golf, tennis or squash with a friend. Perhaps you just want to lie on the beach or while away some time by yourself in the stillness of a forest or the peacefulness of a river. The opportunities are endless, the cost is very low and the benefits are very high.
Of course, like many human endeavours, people make big business out of education. There are many good but expensive courses you can do. However many of the courses that aren’t to do with vocational development (i.e. economic development) are cheap or even free. They might be held as night courses at a local school or at a community centre. There are thousands of books, internet sites and free videos online that can teach you anything you might like to know. Anything you learn about anything will make you feel better and it will make you a better person.
Many community classes will even save you money by teaching you self-sufficiency and well-being like cooking, preserving, sewing, knitting, gardening, woodwork, metalwork, first aid, home remedies, yoga, meditation etc. You can learn about the weather, the stars, local flora and fauna, and local history. Doing classes can also be a great way to meet new people.
Spending time in nature
Standing Bear, a Native American chief and civil rights leader, said: “Mans’ heart away from nature becomes hard”. Nature is free medicine. Spending time in the outdoors will lift your spirits and reduce stress. You could combine it with exercise, and socialising and get a triple benefit. Or you could simply sit in a park, or a forest, or on a beach and just soak it all up!
Also, it is beneficial from a sustainability point of view that people directly see the connection between what they do and the way it impacts the environment. In this way, people become aware of their responsibilities to look after the environment.
Read about “Nature Deficit Disorder” here»
Your community needs your help! By giving your time you benefit those you are helping as well as yourself. Studies have shown that people feel better from giving and that’s a feeling money can’t buy.