Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's Official: Material Things Aren't the Source of Happiness

A study published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology concluded that spending your money on experiences (trips, concerts, movies, dining out) brings more happiness than purchasing material things.

The study, which combined results from eight separate studies, found that people had more anxiety over making the right material purchase; were more likely to compare their material purchase with those of others; were envious of others who had made a superior purchase of a similar object; and, perhaps most important, their initial satisfaction with their purchase diminished over time.

To me, this really isn't very surprising. Our entire culture encourages competing with others on a material level, which is both wasteful and mentally unhealthy. For example, when we bought our house, we didn't replace any of the existing major appliances: they all worked very well, so we continued to use them. Some of them are over 20 years old now, still attractive, and still working!

About 25 years ago, I saw a magnet in a shop on Cape Cod which perfectly expressed my thoughts. It says, "The most precious things in life aren't things."

Unfortunately, some people never realize this, and they are constantly disappointed when the material things which they surround themselves with don't bring them the happiness that they imagined.

As I have written here, cancer patients are frequently given a very precious gift; the realization that living in the "now", and finding beauty and joy in the many little experiences which happen from moment to moment, are what truly feeds our souls. I knew this long before being diagnosed, and I continue to live my life this way.

Experiences can be held in your heart for the rest of your life. And, you can have meaningful and enjoyable ones each day that don't cost you a cent! It's simply a matter of changing your mindset. We would all be healthier if we adopted this way of seeing the world.


  1. I think life has its material way and its spiritual one, without the latter you can't enjoy the first.

  2. Exactly. If you don't have inner contentment, all of the material things can't replace this in your life. You are a wise friend.