We live in a society where material possessions are taking over our lives. We are glued to our phones and tablets, we kit out our homes in the latest mod-cons, and we splurge on branded clothing and accessories even if they are made in the same factory as the unbranded equivalents.
But there is a growing backlash against materialism, and it is one that you might want to pay attention to. There are many reasons why you should try to avoid being materialistic, with the following 12 being among the most important. Read them and discover why you should be less materialistic, starting today.
1. The Goalposts Are Always Moving
The number one problem with leading a materialistic life is that, however wealthy you get and whatever level of material comfort you achieve, you can always make a step up to even more grandiose products.
This happens because the human mind is incredibly adaptable and any new possessions get quickly assimilated into normality. They essentially fade into the background soon after you get them.
This is known as the treadmill of consumption – no purchase will ever bring you closer to happiness, it will simply speed up the treadmill to force you to buy ever more expensive things.
2. Anticipated Satisfaction Is Usually Higher Than Actual Satisfaction
Quite often you will think about buying an item and have lofty expectations of your satisfaction, and then experience far lower satisfaction after you have purchased it.
This is a form of cognitive dissonance, where your attitude to the item changes as soon as you are in possession of it. When it no longer forms part of a future fantasy, and when you realize the cold, hard truths about its usefulness to you, its appeal soon diminishes.
This is partly to do with the moving goalposts spoken about above, but there is another factor at play. When you envisage your possession of the item, it is likely to be in an unrealistic setting free from the worries and stresses of the real world. When you experience the item in the context of your wider life, it fails to live up to expectations.
3. Materialistic People Are Generally Less Happy
There is plenty of research out there (Google it if you want to read it) that suggests materialistic people generally experience more negative emotions and fewer positive ones. They are more prone to anxiety disorders, depression and related illnesses.
In essence, then, the pursuit of material gain actually corresponds with a less happy life in the long term.
4. Your Become Less Grateful In Your Life
The constant need to buy newer and more extravagant things leads materialistic people to lose their gratitude. They become so obsessed with the next ‘thing,’ that they fail to recognize the wealth of ‘things’ they already have around them.
Because they value each individual item less, they struggle to be grateful for the prosperity that allowed them to buy it in the first place.
This lack of gratitude can spread throughout their entire lives into their relationships with others, their careers, and their general experience of existence.
5. Most Possessions Are Vastly Under Utilized
One of the great scandals in the modern world is how little we actually use many of our possessions. While not specific to materialists, it does relate strongly to their specific desires and habits.
The more things you own, the less you are able to employ them to their maximum utility. In other words, buying more and more things prevents you from using – let alone enjoying – the things you already own, through the very fact that you have limited capacity available to you.
6. Clutter Is Stressful
It goes without saying that the more you tend to buy, the more clutter you’ll tend to acquire. Even if it’s not always visible, if you have cupboards, attics, and wardrobes full of things, you may suffer greater levels of stress.
Clutter affects your brain in many ways, and none of them are beneficial, so you might want to move away from materialism for this reason alone.
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7. Materials Can’t Improve You As A Person
When we evaluate anything in our lives, we should do so from a perspective of improvement. We should ask whether it improves our physical and mental well-being, and also whether it improves us as people – morally and responsibly.
With possessions and things, it is hard to see, beyond the more basic requirements for a comfortable life, how they can actually improve either your situation or you as a person.
8. Materialism Devalues Relationships And Causes Loneliness
We only have so much mental capacity, and when that is being taken up by a fixation on the material world, it causes us to reduce the value we place on personal relationships.
One study has even suggested that there is a cyclical link between materialism and loneliness, where each fuels the other. In other words, as you focus more on gaining material wealth, you are more likely to experience loneliness.
9. Materialism Drives Envy
When all your hopes and dreams revolve around possessing certain things – a big house, an expensive car, the latest gadgets – you are almost certain to fall victim of one of the seven deadly sins: envy.
As you begin to move in circles of equally materialistic people, your dreams will have to compete with the realities of others. And no matter how rich you are, there will always be someone richer than you.
Inevitably, you will look upon these individuals with the green eyes of envy and this only spurs on your materialistic drive. Similar to the moving goalposts mentioned above, you will always be able to compare yourself to someone with greater wealth and a more opulent lifestyle, meaning you’ll never be content.
10. You Won’t Look Back On The Things You’ve Owned
As you get older – and even in the years in between – you are highly unlikely to look back at your life so far and reminisce over the material possessions that have come and gone.
You will never sit with a smile on your face as you remember the fancy clothes you once wore or the cutting edge smartphone that once graced your palm. These are not the stuff that memories are made of.
11. People Won’t Remember You For Your Possessions
When all’s come and gone and you’ve passed from this world to whatever comes after, it won’t be your material wealth that people mention when speaking about your life.
It will be the type of person you were, the fun they had with you, the memorable moments you shared. It will be the example you set to those around you and the good that you did with your time on this planet.
12. Experiences Provide More Happiness Than Possessions
The previous two points both lead into this final reason not to be materialistic. Scientists are now almost certain that, for the vast majority of people, spending money on experiences will provide greater long term happiness than spending it on possessions.
Experiences are what you look back on when you grow older and they are what people will remember about you when you are gone. Experiences become part of your life story; they change who you are, they strengthen relationships, they foster cooperation, they give you joy that no material thing could provide.
Experiences do not come with a price tag attached to them; they can cost you nothing, or they can cost you a lot, but the actual feelings you get at the time are not comparable. This means no envy and no moving goalposts; experiences simply are what they are.