The pursuit of happiness is something we all want. In fact, if you ask people what they want, most often they'll say, "I want to be happy." Many factors go into making us happy, but one thing that destroys happiness for sure is materialism. In fact, in most studies, having less brings more happiness. Studies have further proven that happiness has not gone up one bit since the great depression when everyone lost everything. The holidays advertise and bring out materialism in everyone a little bit. However, when materialism begins taking over your life and relationship, both will suffer.
The Journal of Couple and Relationship Therapy has identified several factors that may make a person become materialistic. Things such as being narcissistic and concerned with impressing people, being anxious, depressed, and not comfortable with their relationship skills, and having a low self-esteem causes them to overdo. People who have a tendency toward materialism frequently were raised with more emotional neglect, and somehow connected money with love more than relationships. Advertisers understand that most people aren't narcissistic, but everyone has a little bit of materialism, so they create ads to bring out the importance of having stuff so you will be happy and others will love you.
If you try to have a simple holiday, you'll find it extremely difficult. Stores open on Thanksgiving, and people are lined up ready to shop for black Friday. Trampling deaths by other shoppers is something most of us never heard of growing up, but now you hear about it too frequently. You can't avoid the Christmas music beginning before Thanksgiving, the decorations put up in October, and ads for everything to make you shine and feel valued. Couples may focus on having things, over-buying for themselves and others while going into debt. They have so much stuff they're paying rent to store it in a fast growing industry called "storage warehouses." None of this is improving their relationship. In fact, the number of divorces that happen in January is high, and more than half who divorce struggle with financial issues.
Materialistic couples struggle with depth and meaning in their relationship. They score lower on marital satisfaction and complain more about deeper core issues that cannot be bought. Studies have also shown that materialistic people score higher on loneliness scales.
These tips can help you as an individual, or as part of a couple, to avoid becoming focused on stuff, and put your focus back on the simple act of being thoughtful during the holidays.
- Set a budget for the holidays and focus on not buying name brand items. People who are materialistic seem to focus on brands, and the more popular the brand name, the more expensive the product. For materialistic people, the brand is what gives them a sense of approval or prestige.
- If you must overspend on someone, buy a gift of charity for the person or environmentally friendly gifts. This way you can spend money, but rationalize that it's helping a great cause.
- Have a holiday where you only buy used items for each person.
- Limit TV during the week. Advertising uses many methods to get into our brains. Ads work to reinforce spending and buying as a way to feel better.
- Stay away from materialistic friends especially during the holidays. Friends keep up with friends, and competition is correlated with becoming materialistic.
Reducing the amount of stuff you buy not only adds a level of depth to the meaning of your holidays, but it restores your own sense of how little stuff you actually need to be happy. Being thought of by others feels good, but having to prove your worth by purchasing more and more stuff, thinking it's the stuff that's going to add delight or happiness, is irrational. Take back your life, take back the stuff, and give more time during the holidays.
–Mary Jo Rapini
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