It's easy for us to slip into auto-pilot at this time of year, running from one party to shop, and we get swept along in the worldwind. By definition, consumerism is in total contrast to mindfulness: 'The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods, or, put another way; the theory that an increasing consumption of goods is economically desirable.'
In one respect, the consumer society we live in is completely unaligned with mindfulness philosophy, causing stress and mental suffering through constant desire. Some would argue that consumerism goes against reality, and distracts us from the true sense of self, our connection with the Earth and Mother Nature. But we aren't all doomed; quite the contrary! By practicing mindful practices of gratitude and awareness, we can live more consciously in the moment, appreciating the small things and celebrating connections.
And this brings me, as always, back home to the countryside. Of course, I’m a huge advocate of living and working rurally for the unbeatable sense of community, the vibrancy and the people to offer just three reasons. I love how so many rural businesses and entrepreneurs seem to fuse innovative thinking with traditional values - they’re a constant source of inspiration, and the very reason that I established The Hills.
In a world where the average petrol station counter heaves with 100 different confectionary brands, a small, locally-manufactured artisan chocolate bar feels rather special. When you’re ‘greeted’ by a disinterested Customer Services advisor in a high street store, the smiles and personalised service at a local boutique shine even more brightly. Maybe it’s because we’ve lived - indeed, are still living through - a recession, with austerity measures and public service cuts galore, that we’ve tired of everything being cheap, quick and disposable.
For me, the Great British countryside is an obvious habitat for talent, creativity and business acumen to thrive, but I felt some rural-dwellers needed prompting to discover the hidden gems under their nose - and city slickers need to know about the huge array of businesses, artists, crafters, therapists, professional services and more hiding in the hills! We really do ‘do it differently’ in the countryside, in a way that’s focused on quality services, experiences and products - and it’s a way that’s totally in tune with this new, more mindful consumer movement afoot in Britain in 2018.
Mindfulness is not just a gift for us individually, but collectively too. In these turbulent times of division and discord, mindfulness has the power to reinforce a shared humanity that holds us all together, especially in small communities and rural networks.
Have you felt the need to shop smaller? Found yourself choosing independent over mainstream? Considering your environmental footprint? Then you’re part of this crusade for quality, wittingly or otherwise. And if you are - and if you’ve read this far I’d say it’s a definite! - then I beg you to look to the countryside, and urge those around you to do so, too. It’s hugely encouraging that 80% of people aged 55 or over prefer to buy local as was reported in The Independent recently, but this figure drops sharply to 57% amongst 25-34 year olds - and, with Brexit on the horizon, homegrown support for countryside businesses is more important than ever. It’s time to say good riddance to bad rubbish and bin disposable culture - and I believe that the countryside presents us with a quality-centred alternative.