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Video: Materialism and Happiness

materialism and happinessApple’s iPhone 7 is coming out this year, and it’s going to be the greatest iPhone yet. Maybe the greatest smartphone yet. It’s going to complete your life.

At least until the iPhone 8 comes out. That’s really going to be the greatest iPhone yet.

Buying stuff is fun because the coolest phone or shirt or toaster or whatever always seems to be the one we don’t have. Once I buy this snazzy new gadget or item of clothing or household appliance, then I’ll be happy!

Of course, we know in our heart of hearts that it doesn’t quite work that way. You get the iPhone 7, and pretty soon you get used to it. It might even start to seem boring.

The solution? Well, that’s why Apple comes out with a new iPhone every year.

We all know buying stuff isn’t going to bring us real, genuine, bona fide happiness. But what’s the alternative? Not buying stuff? That doesn’t sound very fun.

I’m going to suggest that the alternative is being grateful for the things we have. Now wait, wait! Before you close this tab and go back to searching for luxury smoothie blenders on Amazon, hear me out!

Many times, the only thing stopping us from being grateful for what we have is that we don’t take the time to do it. It’s not that everything we have is dull and worthless. And it’s not that we’re inherently ungrateful or unsatisfied.

It’s just that to be happy about what you have, sometimes you have to set aside a brief minute simply to reflect on why you’re happy with what you have and what you like about it. Wanting something new often wins out over appreciating something old only because seeing an ad and wanting the thing in the ad is an automatic response, while savoring what we already have requires a brief moment of deliberate, self-initiated effort.

This doesn’t only hold for material possessions, by the way. Taking a second to reflect on what you’re grateful and what you already have in any aspect of your life can make a big difference in how you approach life — you might even find that it’s as rewarding as buying stuff!

That’s not to say happiness is about never buying anything again, either. C’mon, the iPhone 7 does look kind of cool. But when you free yourself up from buying stuff for the sake of buying stuff, you get better at making purchases that actually add something to your life.

In this Ask the Therapist video, Marie Hartwell-Walker and Daniel J. Tomasulo give some tips on how to break the cycle of endless consumerism and gain more perspective on your shopping habits. Watch their advice below, and see the Psych Central YouTube channel for more Ask the Therapist episodes.


Video: Materialism and Happiness

Neil Petersen

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). Video: Materialism and Happiness. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 21 Jul 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.