Feeling down? More stuff isn’t the answer. If you want to be happy, spend on experiences (not things). Below are 7 reasons why materialism won’t lead to happiness.
1. The excitement will wear off.
New stuff provides instant gratification, sure, but life-long happiness? Not so much. Having the latest version of the iPhone might be nice while it lasts, but you can rest assured an even newer (and better!) one will follow. There is always going to be a better version of everything you own, so let go of your need to have the latest-and-greatest thing and be happy with what you have.
2. It is a distraction from what really matters.
The pursuit of stuff is a distraction from the important thing: the pursuit of your goals. It can be hard to stay interested in your goals when success requires patience (the opposite of the instant gratification materialism provides). But don’t you think achieving a goal meaningful to you will make you happier than a bunch of stuff that leaves you feeling empty before you know it?
3. The more you have, the more you crave.
Have you ever noticed how kids can rip open a present, give it a momentary glance, and then throw it aside without second thought before moving on to the next gift? This behavior illustrates what happens if you become addicted to the instant gratification that comes with material things. No matter how much you have, it never feels like enough. This is because you’re trying to fill an emotional void with a tangible thing.
4. You couldn’t possibly use all of your stuff.
What good is a bunch of stuff if you don’t actually use all of it? Those movies you don’t watch, books you don’t read, and clothes you don’t wear could be gifted to a friend, sold to a thrift store, or donated to a charity. If you’re not using it, you might as well make some money (or make someone’s day) out of it.
5. Less stuff = Less clutter = Less stress
A house free from clutter will make you feel happy and organized. This isn’t to say you need to rid yourself of all worldly possessions or anything drastic, but there’s no denying that living in a home that’s a disorganized wreck will stress you out. And let’s face it: you have more than you could ever need. If a thief broke into your house and stole random stuff (exempting obvious and/or expensive things), you probably wouldn’t even notice most of it was gone. Get rid of your unneeded possessions without mercy. For the next few weeks, slowly work through the objects in your house and ask yourself, “Do I have another object that can accomplish the same thing this does, but better?” Answer “yes,” and it goes.
6. More isn’t always better.
A study published in the journal Psychological Science found that more isn’t better (it’s worse). How can that be? Wealthy people forget how to savor life’s pleasures. Savoring is the ability to extend a positive emotional experience. A vacation, for example, comes with three phases:
- Pre-trip excitement (talking to co-workers about how excited you are, looking forward to feeling your toes in the sand)
- The trip itself
- Post-trip reminiscing (talking about how much fun you had, making a photo collage and sharing it with friends)
Being able to live an extravagant life seems to make it more difficult to enjoy the small things. Slow down, live in the present, and savor every positive experience for a longer-lasting smile.
7. Happiness can’t be bought in a store.
Happiness isn’t a tangible thing you can buy in a Black Friday sale. If want to buy something that will lead to happiness, spend on experiences (not things). The joy of buying stuff fades over time as you get used to having it (i.e. it’s not “shiny” and “new” anymore). But spending on experiences will help you get closer to the people you care about, and provide you with a positive memory that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.