New research confirms that being born with a silver spoon in your mouth does not mean that you will live a happy, contented life. In fact, the wealthy often look for happiness in all the wrong places.
In the study, Baylor University investigators looked at the relationship between materialism and happiness and why rich people are often unhappy.
As discussed in The Journal of Positive Psychology, researcher James A. Roberts, Ph.D., and two colleagues explored the relationship between materialism — making acquisition of material possessions a central focus of one’s life — and life satisfaction.
Numerous studies have already shown that people who are more materialistic are generally less satisfied with their standards of living, their relationships, and their lives as a whole.
With that being the case, the researchers wondered if anything could make materialistic people more satisfied with their life.
According to the researchers, since materialism is typically not associated with positive emotions, improving a person’s ability to express gratitude may improve their satisfaction with life.
Gratitude is a positive emotion that is experienced when someone perceives that another person has intentionally given him or her a valued benefit.
To test their theory, the trio analysed the results of a specially designed questionnaire sent to 249 university students.
The main results were as expected. “People who pursue happiness through material gain tend to feel worse, and this is related to negative appraisals of their satisfaction with life,” they confirmed.
However, their results also demonstrated that gratitude, and to a lesser extent, positive affect, both ‘buffer’ the negative effects of materialism, in effect making more grateful individuals more satisfied with their lives.
The team observed: “Individuals high in gratitude showed less of a relationship between materialism and negative affect.
“Additionally, individuals high in materialism showed decreased life satisfaction when either gratitude or positive affect was low.”
The trio conclude that negative affect, positive affect, and gratitude seem to be ‘key pieces to the puzzle of the relationship between materialism and dissatisfaction with life.’
They suggest that the “pro-social, other-focused nature of gratitude” might help to reduce the “self-focus” inherent in materialism.
“Specifically, individuals who are able to appreciate what they have even while engaging in materialistic pursuits might be able to be maintain high levels of life satisfaction.”
In other words, being rich is not enough to make you happy; you also need to be grateful as well.
Source: Taylor and Francis Group