Looking For Happiness in All the Wrong Places

If I were to ask you, “Do you feel happiness can be attained through money and material possessions?” it’s a safe bet that most of you would say “No”. But then, why do so many of us act as if money and possessions are the road to happiness? I call this the “Great Disconnect”. We say one thing, but do another. We know better, but act like happiness can be purchased on-line, at the mall, or from a catalog.* The sad truth is that it’s just the opposite. A strong attachment to material possessions like cars, clothes, electronic gizmos, jewelry and such (we will call this love of stuff materialism in this column) runs counter to our well-being.
Material values undermine how we feel about ourselves, interfere in our relationships with others (for example, materialistic men are more likely to cheat on their wife, argue about money, or spend less time at home) and reduce the time we spend on community activities. Let’s face it, when material possessions are at the center of our solar systems, there’s little time or energy for anything else. Our lives become an endless cycle of work and spend. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can change. It won’t always be easy in the current consumer culture, a bit like a salmon swimming upstream, but it can be done. We first need to change our attitudes about money and possessions. In my weekly blogs to come I will share compelling research evidence (and funny anecdotes as well) that possessions do not make us happier, and in fact, can make us less happy.
Except for a few brief hiccups since the 1970s, consumption has steadily increased while our happiness has flat-lined. We are no happier in 2011 than we were in 1970 despite an ever increasing pile of material possessions. I invite you to join me as we put to rest the notion that more is always better and map a route to lasting happiness. I look forward to the trip.
PS I plan to blog once a week. Please subscribe to my blog and tell others about my blog. And, by all means, post comments. I hope this becomes a forum for discussing the current consumer culture’s obsession with possessions and how this affects our happiness.
* Tim Kasser, The High Price of Materialism, 2002.

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3 Responses to Looking For Happiness in All the Wrong Places

  1. Deryl Cason says:

    I think the reason people say, “No” when asked, “Do you feel happiness can be attained through money and material possessions?” is because we rather be undercover materialist than out in the open. We see the negative connotation materialist have in our society and no one wants to be seen in that light, so we deny that it makes us happy, but secretly we know it does.

  2. Austin Smith says:

    This article is a great way to start off this series of blogs and also introduce the book, every article has been very interesting so far and reading the rest should be interesting.

  3. Juan Pablo Gomez says:

    Excellent article.

    We usually try to reflect our success or personalities through our possessions or “shiny objects”.

    I think this is a huge problem that has driven us to our present, the value of a person is not a reflect of his personality or moral values, but is rather the reflect of his material possessions.

    And as you had mention on your classes, a big problem of this is that we become part of a “treadmill” that will always be raising the “bar”.

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