The Plague of Materialism and Our Well-being!

There is a great deal of research into the historical investigation of humans in pursuit of happiness through materialism. Researchers for long have tried to figure out why people are happy, is it money, leisure, or hard work that makes them happy in their lives? Theorists and scholars from various fields have in recent years been seeking to understand the effects of materialism on human beings, societies, and behavior. Belk (1985) defines materialism as “the importance a consumer attaches to worldly possessions”. Such possessions are expected to have a central role in the life of an individual at the highest materialistic level. The principal source of happiness and disappointment are unfortunately these possessions. Moreover, Csikszentmihaly (2005) describes materialism as a propensity to concentrate more attention on objectives that include material goods such as willingness to take ownership, consume, or display them. An individual is a materialist when he/she puts his/her psychic energy into materialistic objects and their symbolic significance based on money, rank, and power. Therefore, these individual sees life primarily from a materialistic perspective. The object is not just an object for a materialistic individual. This individual seeks to achieve objectives that start with the object but go beyond the object itself. To own an object means not only to own its functions but also to use the object as a bridge to happy living.

Materialists are less willing to share the cash with others and less willing to engage in charity activities. A materialist usually places the property in the center of his / her life and measures his / her life as a success accordingly. But he/she also needs to show others its status (even desired or actual) or success. In this sense, the meanings of these gifts must be treated as a means compatible with their desire of the ones you’re giving them to.

A materialistic view of life may harm the relationship of a couple. Money has proved to be a central factor in marital disputes. A new study by Dr. Jason Carroll, a Brigham Young University professor, reveals that materialistic couples are less happy and appear to have more arguments than others. According to Jason Carroll, this is because, instead of nurturing relationships, material people can spend more time searching for new things. Such people will respond less to their partners and concentrate less on their partnerships. Thus, materialistic partners will always pursue pleasure in expensive objects and not in individuals. This means they are likely to spend less time, effort, and resources to ensure that their marriage is a success. Materialistic couples have often reported more financial difficulties than other couples since they’d always like to be treated with extravagant spending.

In addition to harming the relationship of a couple, a materialistic perspective may also increase the risk of a person becoming depressed. In a new study published in Personality and Individual Differences by Baylor University, researchers saw that more materialistic people are more likely to get depressed. The research analysis found that “the least thankful, the least happy and the most unhappy were also the most materialistic individuals”. That’s because these people were more self-centered. Instead of investing more time and resources in supporting their friends and spouses, they focused more on physical rewards. Individuals with a high materialism score often had more emphasis on what they do not have, such as costly things. Materialists can never be content with their possessions as they will inevitably form a basis for new and better goods.

Material property can never make a person happy or content. A new item, an expensive good or ornaments will make a person only happy for a moment, but they will eventually get bored and try to get more. A new possession can only please a person until he feels covetous and depressed again. Besides being depressed, people with high materialistic ideals often have high anxiety levels. In essence, materialism has a negative influence on people in society. Materialism has shown that it ruins the relationships of people, raises the degree of depression and anxiety of an individual, and makes people less happy with their whole life. Persons with high materialistic ideals would turn to their properties to pursue satisfaction rather than to others.

Unfortunately, the society in which I was born and educated has this materialistic mentality in which objects decide the fate of life and relationships. I have seen relationships being destroyed because extravagant spendings weren’t done at weddings. Expensive gifts weren’t exchanged. I have seen girls getting divorced over “money issues”, I have seen women who are forced to live in abusive marriages because of not bringing in dowry, cars, or real estate in the name of marital security. Do we call ourselves educated? Can we ever be a progressive nation? Is money the dictating factor for relationships?

Enough Ranting… Is there a solution?

Yes, there is. Here I’d introduce the concept of “Gratitude.” Gratitude is often the recognition from the heart of a kind act. This selfless act creates an environment of reciprocation where individuals want to thank for their kindness.

Youngsters in particular can benefit from gratitude if they are taught early, therefore gratitude seems vital to healthy growth. Jeffery Froh is a professor of psychology at Hofstra University and author of “Gratitude and the Reduced Costs of Materialism in Adolescents” Gratitude encourages feelings of safety, encouragement, and sustainability, none of which is materialistic. In every child, the principles of gratitude should be developed and strengthened. Froh extends the belief that healthy learning is nurtured by sincere support from other people and it starts with immediate family members. Gratitude also allows you to humble yourself and be thankful for what you have. If gratitude is stressed, the pandemic of materialism will end and new cultivation of happiness will thrive.

My humble and sincerest request to all my readers is to concentrate on the “quality” of life, be compassionate, support others, and be thankful to the Almighty for what you have. Look down at people who fail to meet their basic needs somehow, while we, the happy and fortunate ones, still whining…. Let’s aim to change our lives and culture positively.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Dunya News’ editorial stance.

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