The world is constantly pushing you – to be more, to do more, and to have more. In a world obsessed with more, more and more, how do you hold on to the thing that makes life meaningful? In simpler words, how do you plan on being happy with what you already have?
Happiness is a topic that has been studied for decades, a term that is being searched by millions of people even today. We all want to know the secret behind never-ending happiness. This is why we end up running after what the world teaches us to want – more of what we have. However, if ‘more’ could guarantee happiness, wouldn’t the richest or the busiest person in the world be the happiest too?
Scientific research, as well as my personal experience, shows a completely different picture. In this article, I’m gonna show you that more doesn’t equal happiness, and how to be happy with what you have already.
- Research on happiness and materialism
- Tips on how to be happy with what you have
- Closing words
This article is part of a much bigger guide on learning how to become happy that I’m sure is the biggest freely available guide on the internet right now. This article contains some great tips, but you’ll find a lot more actionable tips in the section Happiness Tips!
Research on happiness and materialism
There is a term for always wanting more material possessions. It’s called materialism.
Wanting more and more from life leads to materialism – the tendency to focus more on short-term possessions and less on long-term happiness. The world makes us believe that the more we possess, the happier we tend to be. However, several studies show that it is the opposite. The more materialistic we become, the less becomes our chances of finding happiness. Let’s take a look at a couple of research findings on this.
Materialism vs happiness
A study was conducted by Rong Wang, Hongyun Liu, Jiang Jiang, and Yue Song in the year 2017 on more than five hundred students in China in three surveys of six to twelve months in between. The study revealed that materialism diminished the psychological satisfaction of a person, followed by a decrease in well-being and an increase in depression.
So wanting and acquiring more in life eventually leads to dissatisfaction instead of contentment and happiness. This emphasizes the fact that the more you try to place your happiness on things such as money, fame, and beauty, further happiness moves away from you.
Materialism is a vicious cycle
In another research by Lan Nguyen Chaplin and Deborah Roedder John published in 2007, the results reveal that materialism goes up when self-esteem goes down. The research, conducted on different age groups of children and teenagers, points towards a solid connection between a rise in materialism during adolescent years and a fall in self-esteem during the same period.
The researchers have thus concluded that low self-esteem tends to lead to increased materialism and high self-esteem tends to be followed by diminishing materialism.
This ends up being a vicious cycle. We tend to want more, buy more, and have more to raise our feelings of self-worth. However, this eventually leads to higher dissatisfaction in the form of stronger materialistic behavior. We gradually get sadder due to the things that we got ourselves to be happier in the first place. Ironic, isn’t it?
The moment you realize that material possessions do not bring you genuine happiness is the moment you can start on your journey of discovering true long-term happiness.
Craving materialistic items likely has a negative influence on your happiness
Tips on how to be happy with what you have
Now that we have established that material possessions don’t bring happiness, how do you become happy with what you have? I believe in 6 actionable tips that work very well for being happy with less.
1. Learn to appreciate what you already have
The first step you need to take is to learn how to change the way you think. Look around and list down all the good things you have in your life.
- You may not have the latest smartphone but you do have a phone that you can use to talk to your loved ones.
- You may not have the highest-paying job but you do have a job that lets you pay for a house where you can be safe and sound.
- You may not have your soul mate yet but you do have a family member looking out for you.
Often we get so busy counting the things we don’t have, that we forget to look around and appreciate the things we already do have. Taking the things we have for granted leads to our minds being dissatisfied with our present condition. We forget to focus on the good things that we have while trying to get our hands on the things we don’t. This is why it is so important to learn to change our perspectives and to see the positive sides of our lives.
A simple exercise I love to do myself is to focus on my happy memories whenever I am feeling down. It’s a bit tough to do in the beginning but gets easier with time and practice. The memory you choose to relive in your mind can be as simple as the smell of your favorite book or the smile on your friend’s face after unwrapping the gift you gave them. These memories belong to you and no one else, and they will always be with you to keep you happy.
2. Let go of these negative happiness factors
Letting go is imperative if you want to move ahead and be happy. You have to let go of three things explained below if you want to start being happier in your life:
Let go of comparisons
Comparing yourself with others can never be good for your mental health. When you focus on how others are better than you, you automatically become unhappy.
This shortsighted perspective often ends up in the inability of realizing that everyone has their ups and downs. Just because they only show their ups, does not mean that their downs do not exist. Looking at the good things of other people’s lives and comparing those with ours tend to create a dissatisfaction that becomes difficult to remove. It’s important to focus on your own path, your own success, and your own happiness.
Let go of past mistakes
As humans, we all make mistakes. Be it career mistakes, relationship mistakes, or embarrassing public mistakes that are hard to forget. Not being able to let go of your past mistakes can hamper your present and future state of mind as well. There’s no point in worrying about something which cannot be changed. So why waste your precious minutes, hours, and days on focusing what could have been?
Instead, focus on what can be changed and what exists right now in your life. Learn from your previous mistakes and be happy that they happened for a reason.
Let go of social media
We have all grown to love social media. The scrolling, the browsing, the reacting, the commenting can take hours away from our days. These seemingly harmless hours can be the reason for your unhappiness. The more time you spend on watching too much negative news on war and violence, the more you forget to focus on being grateful for what you have in your life. Limit the time you spend on social platforms and increase the time you spend on yourself and your relationships.
3. Live in the moment
It might sound strange, but oftentimes we get so busy trying to achieve more that we eventually forget to live. The less you live, the unhappier you become.
So how does one simply live? The answer is simple – by changing what you do, by choosing the people around you and by simply saying thank you. We’ve written an entire article on the benefits of living in the now, which is something called mindfulness.
4. Change what you do
How you feel depends primarily on how you choose to let yourself feel. The easiest way to be happier is to bring positive changes to the way you live your daily life.
Start by changing the way you wake up. Instead of picking up your phone, scrolling through news and browsing through social media, open up your windows instead and breathe in, listen to soothing music, take a walk or pick up a book to have a little “me time” before getting busy with life again.
Start falling in love with the little things. From the ray of sunshine to the drops of rain, from the fluffy clouds above you to your warm cup of morning coffee or tea – anything can give you little moments of happiness if only you decide to let them.
5. Choose the people around you
Running after material things can tend to blur the importance of the people around you. Material possessions can only bring instant gratification, but not the long-term happiness that you can find through social interactions.
Studies have revealed that the more you surround yourself with people instead of possessions, the happier you tend to be. The smiles linger longer on your face and the memories stay with you for a lifetime. So spend time with the people you love or value. Be it family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, or even mere acquaintances, make sure you get a healthy dose of daily interactions with the positive people in your life.
6. Challenge yourself to be more grateful
Did you know that gratitude is significantly correlated to happiness? With the many benefits of practicing gratitude, it is one of the most actionable tips I can give you. Challenge yourself to be more thankful and you’ll soon influence how it positively influences your happiness.
As you turn this into a habit, you start bringing more positivity in your life and eventually, a way to let the happiness come in. It lets you share the happiness too, especially with the people you value.
How do you start practicing gratitude? I simply take a piece of paper before going to bed, write down 5 things I am grateful for, that have made me happy that day, and then list down 5 people who I should be thanking for bringing happiness in my life. This simple 5-minute task can not only lead to better sleep but also a better, happier life.
Being more, doing more, and having more does not necessarily bring you happiness. What brings true joy is knowing how to be happy with what you have. Both science and social interactions have proven the same. The more you crave for materialistic possessions, the lower your self-esteem and level of satisfaction goes. To get out of this toxic cycle, all you need to do is learn how to change the way you think, focus on happy memories, let go of the and live life by spending more time with people you value. What you already have in your life is most likely more than enough reason to be happy!
Do you want to share your own positive change that you applied in your life? Did I miss an awesome tip that you used to be happier in an instance? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
An introvert at heart and a nerd by birth. Clocks in as a strategic planner. Breathes as a writer with a decade of experience. Loves picking positivity and happiness over pomp and haste.