Do you think more money will make you more happy? How about more stuff? Well the answer to that, my friends, is no. Psychologists have shown in research (see references below) that the pursuit of material wealth and the pursuit of happiness are not the same.
Caveat: Not having enough money to pay for basic needs such as shelter, food, medicine, etc. does affect happiness (not to mention stress levels and health).
But once you have enough to live comfortably, does more more more, mean more more more joy?
Once again, no.
Tim Kasser says:
People who buy into the messages of consumer culture actually report lower personal well-being.
When it comes to consumer culture, we can never win. There is always something better, newer, sleeker. It feels like an endless slippery slope. At least to me.
Tim Kasser says:
Individuals who say that money, image, and popularity are relatively important to them report less satisfaction in life as well as more depression and anxiety.
Uh, yeah! All those things are outside the realm of our control and if our wellness and happiness depend on external things, we are in for a bumpy ride.
Oprah did a fascinating show a while back about Freegans...
people who are able to buy food, clothes, etc. but choose not to. They find a lot of things in the trash or by recycling them between each other. One woman on the show said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said something like this: there are many people who invest a lot of time and a lot of money in trying to get you to think you need something you currently don't have.
Her comment has helped me to be more aware of the strong psychological influence of advertising. I mean I know advertisers want me to buy their stuff, but now I try to really get outside it... to evaluate my wants versus my needs. Sometimes it even makes me mad! Like why should anyone have control over me and tell me I need to wear more red this season? Or that my jeans are now "out?" It reminds me of "The Devil Wears Prada" how Meryl Streep's character says that the color she chooses today will later be the color everyone wants (or something like that). I don't want anyone to have that kind of power over me! Boo!
A movement known as Voluntary Simplicity is one that aims to help people live outside the consumer mainstream. Many people in this movement try to become "time wealthy" or gain "time affluence" rather than to try to become materially affluent.
They say: increased free time will bring you a greater sense of well being.
I say: more time spent with those we love is time well spent. Money in the bank, so to speak. The bank of our relationships. Now relationship enrichment... that has got to be related to happiness.
P.S. I recognize the potential irony of this post on the week before our giveaways... but this post is not to say that getting things isn't fun and joyful... not to mention AWESOME, just that the endless quest for more money and more stuff doesn't mean more happiness, and awareness of being influenced to buy and consume has been helpful for me. That's all.
What helps you separate yourself from the (easy) trap of wanting more more more?
Have you noticed a difference in your happiness when you change that focus?
Kasser, T. (2002) The high price of materialism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Myers, D. (2000) The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55, 56-67.