The accumulation of material goods seems to be innate to human nature, but does all of this materialism actually make us happy? While some goods, like having a place to live and things to eat, contribute to our well-being, the majority of the clutter that people collect actually detracts from their ability to be happy according to a collection of studies completed over the last decade.
In fact, the true path to happiness is practicing gratitude. Gratitude has been empirically connected to happiness, and many positive psychologists believe that people who live a life full of gratitude see life from a more positive point of view and are more easily satisfied with the way things are than in the way they could be. One study even showed that grateful people were more likely to deemphasize negative memories by seeing them through a positive light.
Considered to be the opposite of gratitude, envy, which often leads to more materialism, detracts from feelings of well being and happiness. Gratitude, on the other hand, improves mood, makes material items less appealing, and enhances overall life satisfaction. While some researchers believe that those who live gratefully have stronger social networks that contribute to their overall well being, the most recent studies have shown that there is an inverse relationship between feelings of gratitude and feelings of materialism. The more grateful a person feels the less material items the person needs to be fulfilled. In other words, pursuing happiness through material means often backfires.
In fact, it has been shown in multiple positive psychology studies that those who focus on materialism as a means to obtain happiness often have lower self-esteem, more anxiety, and less self-actualization. Highly materialistic people are also less successful in personal relationships.
Because gratitude reduces the desire for materialistic items, training the mind to be more grateful can have broad applications in building better relationships, managing finances more effectively, and improving marriage.