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7 Reasons Why You’re Materialistic When It Doesn’t Make You Happier

7 Reasons Why You’re Materialistic When It Doesn’t Make You Happier

You only need so much to live a good and healthy life. Then there are a certain number of possessions that account for convenience. What is the rest for? Why do the more expensive brands exist? A $100 T-shirt is made of the same materials as the $10 one. It’s not even necessarily held together better. You don’t even get happier after you buy stuff that you think will make your life better. In fact, you’re most likely happier just thinking about buying the stuff. Some studies even suggest that being more materialistic increases your chances of becoming miserable.

So, why do we keep buying items we don’t need and that don’t make us happy?

1. We Are Influenced By The “Grass Is Greener On The Other Side” Syndrome

Whether or not human beings are inherently prone to jealousy, we often let it cloud our judgment. When jealousy makes you perceive something to be better than it actually is because you don’t have it, it’s called, as you probably know, “the grass is greener (on the other side of the fence)” syndrome or effect.

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You might notice a guy move in across the street. Not only does he have a bigger house and car, but every time you see him, he’s smirking. Lucky bastard! For all you know, he could be paying down a gigantic mortgage, and leasing the car. He could be on his last legs and downright miserable. But our first reaction is to jump to conclusions. Perhaps it’s instinct to predict beyond what we have reasonable evidence to assume. Either way, it’s part of what makes us so prone to materialistic tendencies.

2. Items Are More Easily Attainable Than Alternatives

What I mean is, it’s often easier to set your sights on a particular item, than choosing to focus on enjoying every day with what you have. Because it seems more like progress, more logical, than simply accepting your existence how it is. So the new car gets priority. And then it’s a bigger apartment. And then it’s to renovate the apartment. There is literally no end to new items to attain you could line up as part of your ideal path in life. And that’s what makes it so dangerous. You don’t get out unless you notice. And you don’t notice unless you want to.

3. Hoarding Is An Instinct

Some theories suggest that our materialistic ways are caused by a leftover trait that was once crucial to surviving: the tendency to hoard valuable materials for later use. When what you perceive as useful or valuable is manipulated, that’s when it starts to become unhealthy. Plus, in this age of convenience, there are many instinctive responses and behaviors that can actually end up sabotaging our happiness and even health.

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4. The Desire To Fit In Compels Us

The rise of new technology is perhaps the biggest testament to this aspect of human behavior. Whenever a new technology gets out, first everybody techie “has to have it.” Then it reaches a certain point where most people’s social circles are filled with people that have it, and then even though they were initially apathetic, suddenly they have to have it, too. Consider a man who didn’t find his house lacking until he saw himself surrounded by bigger houses.

5. Commercial Conditioning Influences Us More Than We Think

While I would not say that we are utterly brainwashed, the media influences us more than you might think. The past few years, advertising companies have mostly been criticized for the unannounced use of Photoshop. But that’s not all they’re doing. Have you ever noticed how advertisements tend to show very pleased or happy people using the product in question? Not only do advertisements always try to force you to make the connection between their product and happiness, but they also try to make you blame your unhappiness on not having said product. Just think of a stereotypical commercial where a person is troubled, the product shows up and all of a sudden they are overjoyed. And it’s not just in commercials either. With product placement being extremely prevalent in block busters and probably some of your favorite television shows, there’s almost no getting away.

And even if you’re aware of their game, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s less effective. Just think about all the bad decisions you have made in your life, perfectly aware of what you were doing.

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6. Our Society Glorifies Item Possession

How many times have you heard, “I wish I had that house.” Or, “If only I had that car…” You might have even said so yourself. This is the most simple of many symptoms that item possession is glorified in our society. A more tangible example is when someone sees a aesthetically mismatched couple, they will often jump the gun and assume that “he/she must be rich.” And while most of us do not let wealth overshadow other qualities, there are certainly people who do. And it’s fair to say that to most of us, wealth is considered a positive attribute.

7. We Crave Acceptance, Love And Status

This is where our craving for acceptance, for reverence, for status comes in. Most of us are are genetically wired to crave the acceptance and love of our fellow women and men. This is probably to ensure our survival as a species, as it would make it easier for the common good to override the search for personal pleasure. But it doesn’t end there. When you convince someone that a way to get accepted, to get liked better, to achieve status, is through the garnering of possessions, he or she will pile them up until they reach the clouds. And when that person finds their cries of acceptance hollow, their statements of love empty, they will pile up some more, now convinced that it is the only answer.

Some argue that focusing on goals, whether materialistic or otherwise, can shift your focus away from what is truly important: your daily life. Normal days make up the bulk of your existence, and if you don’t enjoy them, it’s usually not from the lack of a new car. When the new car arrives, and your life doesn’t change, you lose the illusion that it would make your life better, and have to face the reality that there other things between you and happiness. You can either face facts, and appreciate that a bigger house isn’t likely to be the solution either, or get stuck in a vicious circle until you meet a very rude awakening at a later point in life.

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When you’re on your deathbed, what do you think you will recall? The houses you owned? The cars? Or the biggest surprises of your life, the experiences hardest to forget, your greatest friends, and time spent with the ones you loved most?

Most of us would likely be better off if we chose to consciously prioritize people and experiences, over money and possessions.

More by this author

Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on October 14, 2020

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Had a Bad Day? 7 Ways to Rebound From It and Feel Good Again

Today didn’t turn out as you planned, but it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It simply means that you’re human, and you’re not bad just because you had a bad day.

“Not everyday is a good day but there is something good in every day.” -Alice Morse Earle

It’s not the end of the world when you find yourself thinking “I had a bad day,” but it can feel like it. You may have had plans that fell apart, experiences that set you back, and interactions that only did harm.

You may have started the day thinking you could take on it all, only to find you could hardly get out of bed. When you have a bad day, you can forget to look at the good.

Sometimes, self-care helps us to remember why we are worth it. It helps us to recharge and reset our mindset. It helps us to know that there are still options and that the day isn’t over yet.

Love yourself today, no matter how hard it’s been. That’s the way to find yourself amidst the hardships you have. That’s how you center yourself and regain focus and live a more meaningful life. Give yourself some credit and compassion.

Here are 7 ways to rebound from a bad day using self-compassion as a tool. If you had a bad day, these are for you!

1. Make a Gratitude List

In a study on gratitude, psychologists Dr. Robert A Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted an experiment where one group of people wrote out gratitude lists for ten weeks while another group wrote about irritations. The study found that the group that wrote about gratitude reported more optimistic mindsets in their lives[1].

Overall, having a gratitude list improved well-being and made one truly grateful by counting the blessings in their lives.

Write a list of what you are grateful for if you had a bad day. Make it as long as you like, but also remember to note why you’re grateful for each thing you write.

What has given you the most joy? What has set you up for better days? Keep a tally of triumphs in mind, especially when you do have the bad days.

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The day doesn’t define you, and you still have things of value that surround you. These could be material things, spiritual connections and experiences, relationships, basic needs, emotional and mental well-being, physical health, progress towards hopes and dreams, or simply being alive.

Here are some other simple ways to practice gratitude.

2. Write in a Journal

Journaling affects your overall mental health, which also affects physical health and aids in the management of stress, depression, anxiety, and more[2].

All you need is a pen and paper, or you could do an online, password-protected journal such as Penzu. The key is to get started and not pressure yourself on how polished or perfect it is. You don’t need to have prior experience to start journal writing. Just start.

Write out everything that is bothering you for 15 minutes. This helps with rumination, processing problems, and can even aid with brainstorming solutions.

However you approach it, you can find patterns of thinking that no longer serve you and start to transform your overall mental state. This will impact all areas of your life and is a great coping skill.

3. Meditate

Meditation can help you overcome negative thought patterns, worrying about the future, dwelling on the past, or struggling to overcome a bad day[3]. It shifts your mentality and helps you focus on the present or any one thing you truly want to focus on.

Here is an example of a meditation you can do:

Get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Rest your body, release tension, and unclench your jaw. Tighten and release each muscle group in a body scan for progressive muscle relaxation.

Focus on your breath, taking a few deep breaths. Let your belly expand when you breathe in for diaphragmatic breathing. Empty yourself completely of air, then return to normal breathing.

Next, focus on the idea of self-love and let it erase negative thoughts. Think about the ways you’ve been judging yourself, with the narratives coming up that your mind may create.

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Give yourself unconditional love and release judgment. Take your time meditating on this because you matter. This is particularly important if you had a bad day.

Check out this article for more on how to get started with a meditation practice.

4. Do Child’s Pose

Yoga Outlet says:

“Child’s Pose is a simple way to calm your mind, slow your breath, and restore a feeling of peace and safety. Practicing the pose before bedtime can help to release the worries of the day. Practicing in the morning can you help transition from sleeping to waking.”[4]

When you do Child’s Pose, it can be between difficult positions in yoga, or it can be anytime you feel you need a rest. It helps you recover from difficulties and relax the mind.

It also has the physical health benefits of elongating your back, opening your hips, and helping with digestion[5].

To do Child’s Pose, rest your buttocks back on your feet, knees on the floor. Elongate your body over your knees with both arms extended or tucked back, with head and neck resting on the floor[6].

Had a bad day? Try Child's Pose.

     

    Do this pose as a gift to yourself. You are allowing yourself to heal, rest, get time for yourself, recover, and recharge. When you’ve had a bad day, it’s there waiting for you.

    5. Try Positive Self-Talk

    Engage in positive self-talk. This is essentially choosing your thoughts.

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    When you have a negative thought, such as “I can’t do this,” replace it consciously with the thought “I can do this.” Give yourself positive affirmations to help with this.

    Negative self-talk fits into four general categories: personalizing or blaming yourself, magnifying or only focusing on the negative, catastrophizing or expecting the worst to happen, and polarizing or only seeing back and white[7].

    When you stop blaming yourself for everything and start focusing on the positive, expecting things to work out, and seeing the areas of grey in life, you reverse these negative mindsets and engage in positive self-talk.

    When you speak words of kindness to yourself, your brain responds with a more positive attitude. That attitude will affect everything you do. It’s how you take care of yourself if you had a bad day.

    Check in with yourself to know when you are having negative self-talk. Are you seeing patterns? When did they start to become a problem? Are you able to turn these thoughts around?

    6. Use Coping Skills and Take a Break

    Use your coping skills. This means not letting your thoughts take control of yourself.

    You can distract yourself and escape a bit. Do things you love. You can exercise, listen to music, dance, volunteer or help someone, be in nature, or read a book.

    It isn’t about repression. It’s about redirection. You can’t stay in thoughts that are no longer working for you.

    Sometimes, it’s okay to get out of your own way. Give yourself a break from the things going on in your head. You can always come back to a problem later. This may even help you figure out the best course of action as sometimes stepping away is the only way to see the solution.

    If you had a bad day, you may not feel like addressing what went wrong. You may need a break, so take one.

    7. If a Bad Day Turns Into Bad Days

    “I believe depression is legitimate. But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.” –Jim Carrey

    If you’ve been feeling out of control, depressed, or unstable for more than a few weeks, it’s time to call a mental health professional. This is not because you have failed in any way. It’s because you are human, and you simply need help.

    You may not be able to quickly rebound from a bad day, and that’s fine. Feel what you feel, but don’t let it consume you.

    When you talk to a professional, share the techniques that you have already tried here and whether they were helpful. They may tell you additional ideas or gain insights from your struggles of not being able to rebound from a series of bad days.

    If you’re having more than just a bad day, they will want to know. If you don’t have the answers, that’s okay, too. You just need to try these tools and figure out how you’re feeling. That’s all that’s required of you.

    Keep taking care of yourself. Any progress is progress, no matter how small. Give yourself a chance to get better by reaching out.

    Final Thoughts

    If you had a bad day, don’t let it stop you.

    Know this: It’s okay not to be okay. You have a right to feel what you feel. But there is something you can do about it.

    You can invest in yourself via self-care.

    You are not alone in this. Everyone has bad days from time to time. You just need to know that you are the positive things you tell yourself.

    More Things You Can Do If You Had a Bad Day

    Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

    Reference

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