It feels so good to get that shiny new “toy”, doesn’t it?
Whether it’s an impulse buy or something you’ve coveted for a while, it feels so exciting to bring it home and marvel in its newness.
The sad reality is that the joy of something new usually doesn’t last very long. And soon you’re looking for something else to give you that jolt of happiness.
BUT what if you could find more consistent joy by NOT filling your home (and racking up your credit card bill) with lots of stuff?
I just finished Tim Kasser’s book “The High Price of Materialism”. The book provides evidence for what we already know: westerners are increasingly made miserable by the materialistic 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. In order to make you want to buy something, advertisers try to make you feel like something in your life needs to be fixed with the expectation that when you feel bad enough, you will buy their solution.
Rampant and expanding consumerism is directly related to the decline in happiness in America and other places where American values are promoted.
We didn’t always live this way. Over decades, we’ve changed.
One example is a study conducted by Professor Alexander Astin from UCLA. He has been asking first-year college students about their values since the 1960s.
In the beginning, 80% of students said it was important to “develop a personal philosophy of life”.
Today, 40% agree with that.
In the 1960s, 40% of students agreed it was important “to be very well off financially”.
Now, over 70% of students prioritize wealth.
Money IS important. We must confidently meet our basic physiological needs, but that’s about it. (Watch for a video about optimal income for happiness coming soon.)
These are the scientific facts. When people prioritize materialistic values they:
• Are less happy
• Have poor overall psychological health
• Have a diminished sense of security and safety
• Feel less competent and have lower self-esteem
• Experience lower social connectedness
• Test poorly for authenticity and autonomy—that is, they are less able to be and do the things that they most want
So what can we do?
Here are the six best ways to combat materialism:
1. Self-awareness—Stop and take a look at your life priorities. Then ask yourself, “How much of my wanting in life is for things?” If you can be aware of wanting things (and who can’t to some degree?), you have an opportunity to consider adopting values that lead to greater emotional well-being instead.
2. Self-acceptance—You’re probably pretty great now. Can you feel that?
3. Personal growth—In my book, “Whole Person Happiness”, I call this “mastery”. Everyone has a natural yearning to grow. In the link below, you can download the first part of my book (for FREE!), which explains this desire to be stronger physically, mentally and spiritually. Check it out!
4. Social Connection—There is a ton of evidence that humans are hard-wired to need close personal relationships. When you invest in time with people, instead of in things, you get a HUGE (healthy) emotional payoff.
5. Helpfulness—You need to feel like you are making a meaningful contribution to the world; like what you do matters to the well-being of other people, 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 only the things you need and truly value. When you let go of clutter and the need to amass more stuff, you are free to see and pursue the activities and relationships that truly make you happy.
It’s my life’s mission to help the world be a bit happier. If you found this content valuable, please share it with others and you will make the world happier too.
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