Our western culture makes us miserable. It really does. And, by some studies, we seem to be getting less and less happy each decade—from the 1950’s to today. There is no doubt, however, that our material wealth has grown exponentially since then. Tragically, it turns out that our pursuit of wealth is a large part of the problem. In this video, I am going to show you the four to avoid the pain associated with materialism and get the joys of better life objectives. I teach topics, just like this one all around the world. So stay tuned and I’ll give you practical tools that you can use to make both yourself and those around you happier and more successful. I just finished Tim Kasser’s book “The High Price of Materialism”.
I knew it would not be a fun read. In laborious detail, the book provides the research evidence that westerners are increasingly made miserable by the values that mainstream social conditioning “inflicts” on us. Everywhere you go, you are inundated with messages about how the right product will make you happy, popular and rich. Of course, this is bullshit, but the sheer volume of messages is overwhelming. Advertisers know a particularly insidious mind-f#@k.
In order to make you want to buy something, they first need to make you feel that you need what they are selling. So to make you feel the emotional problem that their products will “fix”, they need to make you feel bad—with the expectation that when you feel bad enough, you will buy their solution. I could list lots of direct quotes from advertising executives, but let’s sum up this evil with just one direct quote from the president of an advertising agency.
It is tempting, but I am not going to get on a rant today about corporate misdeeds. I simply want to point out the fact that rampant and expanding consumerism is directly related to the decline in happiness in America and other places where American values are promoted. And, in fairness, there is more going on than just advertising. Over decades we have changed. Take this example: Professor Alexander Astin from UCLA has been asking first-year college students about their values since the 1960’s.
In the beginning, 80% of students said it was very important to “develop a personal philosophy of life”. Today just 40% say that. Through the same period, those same students agreed that it was very important “to be very well off financially” just over 40% of the time in the 1960’s to now, over 70% of the time. Of course, money is important to a limited degree. We obviously must confidently meet our basic physiological needs, but that’s about it. See my video on how much money you need to be happy. The scientific facts are these:
When people have significant attachment to achieving materialistic values they are:
They have poor overall psychological health.
Their sense of security and safety are diminished.
People feel less competent and have lower self-esteem.
Social connectedness suffers.
They test less well for authenticity and autonomy.
All these poor outcomes appear intricately linked to materialism and doggone it materialism keeps becoming a more prevalent life outlooks. So what can we do? Here are the six best ways to combat materialism:
1) Self-awareness—Stop and take a look at your own life priorities. Now that you seen the stark facts, ask yourself, “How much of my wanting in life is for things?” A little self-awareness is half the battle.
If you can identify with wanting things (and who can’t to some degree?) now is an opportunity to consider values that are proven to lead to greater emotional well-being. The values that are associated with happiness are pretty straight-forward. So invest in these additional combat techniques.
2) Self-acceptance: you’re probably pretty great now. Can you feel that?
3) Personal growth: in my book I call this “mastery”. It is simply that in all of us there is a natural yearning to grow. In the link above you can get a free download of the first part of my book that explains this need to want to be stronger physically, mentally and spiritually. Check it out!
4) Social Connection: there is a ton of evidence that we are hard-wired to need close personal relationships. When we invest here, instead of in things, we get huge dividends.
5) Helpfulness: We need to feel like we are making a contribution to the world that is meaningful. That what we do matters to the well-being of other people, perhaps to the natural environment, to somebody or something that you care about.
6) Minimalism is a “thing” now. And I subscribe to it in its less extreme forms. Know when enough is enough. Live with just the things you really need and truly value. When you can let go of clutter and the need to amass more stuff, you are freed to see and pursue the activities and relationships that truly make us happy. And here is one last thought—limit your exposure to marketing in all its forms! So check out my other video on how much money you need to really be happy. Also down below you can get an excerpt from my best selling book which deals with this situation a little more in depth.
Until next time, I am your Happiness Expert, Paul Krismer!