How I Use Ads As a Free Course in Happiness

My “Guerilla Mindfulness” technique

Aaron Nichols
4 min readApr 8, 2022


Photo by Deon Fosu on Unsplash

It’s easy to maintain mindfulness when we book a retreat, or travel to a distant temple and meditate. In our connected world? It’s a lot harder. According to Forbes, the average person is exposed to between 4000 to 10000 ads per day. That’s one screaming huckster blasting crap into your subconscious every 8 to 11 seconds.

A quick glance at most ads reveals an ugly truth:

Advertising agencies understand exactly what’s wrong with modern society, and why it makes people so miserable. And their job is to make it worse. If you found yourself contented tomorrow, do you think you’d sit around craving (and eventually buying) new curtains to replace your perfectly functional curtains?

I doubt it. Advertising is designed to steal your happiness, mindfulness, and equilibrium. Then when they’ve got you off-balance, they offer you a new phone/blender/home security system.

They offer us products, not solutions. How do you charge through the nose for a good solution?

It’s getting ridiculous

Advertising has progressed so far beyond simple ads in newspapers and on TV. It permeates the fabric of life now. We stew in it. 4000–10,000 ads per day. No wonder we often feel depressed and inadequate.

They’re not playing fair, so neither should we.

Let me show you the series of mental tools and filters that I use to fight advertising. I call it Guerilla Mindfulness, because we have to get down in the trenches and disguise ourselves to fight this crap.

Webster’s Dictionary lists the word guerilla as: “a member of a small independent group taking part in irregular fighting, typically against larger regular forces.”

We are a small independent force. And it’s time that we band together to take a stand! Viva la revolucion!

Step 1: use great advertising blockers.

I like ublockorigin and ghostery. They kill ninety percent of advertisements across your devices, exploding most video ads and banner ads (and telling you when cookies are being used to track your data).

Step 2: slap the algorithms.

Since you’re probably going to waste time online this week anyway, take a few seconds out of your Instagram cat video time and try this: Google/Amazon search things that you have absolutely no intention of buying. Power tools. Bamboo rods. Entire modular homes built of shipping containers. Breast pumps.

This helps ensure that the ads that are slimy and gross enough to get through your defenses are not going to be a temptation for you.

Next, when you see those ads that get it wrong, take a second to go out of your way and click on them! Let the algorithm keep showing you those purple fuzzy dice that you’ll never buy.

Step 3: Focus and train your mind.

Since ads are designed to make us miserable, we should go out of our way to do the opposite of what they ask us to do. This is why I called ads a “free course in happiness” in the title. Advertising agencies have taken the time to create a road map for exactly what we shouldn’t do. Wasn’t that nice of them?

They’re trying to make us so unfocused that we spend without thinking. Guerilla mindfulness is a thought filter to avoid that fate.

The thought filter works like this:

Look past the ad to the problem they’re exploiting. Try and find the con. For example, next time you see a diamond ad, make a note to spend quality time with your significant other, and do not buy a diamond. Quietly whisper to yourself: “F*$k diamonds.”

I’ll explain this technique further with one of the stupidest ads I could find:

1. “Dior Sauvage” with Johnny Depp (and coyotes!)

Ad: Captain Jack Sparrow slams out a discordant guitar solo in a concrete apartment with a single bulb. He whispers to himself: “I gotta get out of here.”

Then he gets in his super masculine classic muscle car and drives out of the city to the desert, where he buries all of his jewelry for reasons we the audience are clearly too stupid to understand. A coyote sits on top of his masculine car! The end. Sunset.


Here’s what Guerilla Mindfulness sees:

We’ve clearly lost our connection to nature. Look around! We can’t sleep, we’re depressed, we’re insulated and air-conditioned all the time. Our bodies crave the natural world.

You know that will not bring you one iota closer to the natural world? Dior-Freakin’-Sauvage. You know what will? YOU! These hucksters have taken the time to remind you that you need to go for a hike soon. How nice of them! Go for a hike, and under no circumstances buy Dior Sauvage.

We deserve better

We deserve to be happy. We deserve to live connected lives, as free from misery as possible.

That’s not the M.O. of your average ad agency. But there’s hope!

Using the tools I outlined above, you can go a long way toward blasting ads out of your life. You can make these snake-oil peddling loonies retreat from your devices and mind.

But you’ve got to be mindful of their techniques first.

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Aaron Nichols

Movement Lover, Traveler, and Marketer. On a journey to optimize my life for maximum joy. Come along!