Minimalism and Materialism: The Effects on Mental Health
In more recent years, the minimalist movement has risen and has seen many, many people pursue a lifestyle of living with less ‘stuff’. But, for some reason consumerism seems to be at an all time high as well.
From Marie Kondo’s successful books and Netflix show to author Fumio Sasaki of ‘Goodbye, Things’ to the bloggers and podcasters of The Minimalists, Joshua Fields and Ryan Nicodemus, we seem to not get enough. If you search minimalism in Amazon, you’d get a whole host of things ranging from kitchenware to books to clothing.
The Minimalist Lifestyle
A minimalist can be described as one who doesn’t want to fall into the ‘work, spend, go into debt, work some more kind of lifestyle. I’m sure most of us don’t want to fall into this category but the fact is that the majority of us do. We live in a consumerist society so it’s not that shocking. Minimalists want to instead, focus on personal growth, health, family and living sustainably.
A minimalist lifestyle isn’t just about getting rid of ‘stuff’ – it’s a way of life. It’s about assessing the things around you and keeping what is important to you and getting rid of things that are causing you stress or have absolutely no use to you.
Materialism and Happiness
Materialism, on the otherhand, is believing that having money and possessions is the most important thing in life.
I think people are confused about what really makes them happy. Material possessions seem to take a stronghold on many. The expectation of fulfilling every desire with mundane things somehow equals to a satisfying life. We can probably blame social media for this. We keep feeding our hunger by buying things and for a split second feel happiness and pleasure but we are never fulfilled…the hunger pangs strikes more often than not. No matter how much we ‘eat’, it’s never enough.
Is it surprising that the number of individuals presenting with depression is becoming ever increasing? Is there a correlation between materialism and mental health?
Surely you can attribute many different factors to rising number of mental health issues. But, I’m not really going to get into because I am not a specialist. I can only present you with facts that I find on the internet.
Facts I found on the Internet
Check out the interview of the American Psychological Association with Tim Kasser (Psychologist and materialism expert) https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2014/12/materialism-holidays
Here is a quick summary:
- Materialism is associated with less interpersonal behavior, ecologically destructive behavior, and more spending problems like debt
- The more people hold onto materialistic values, the more they experience unpleasant emotions, health problems like stomachaches/headaches, depression and anxiety.
- Insecurity, feeling threatened, rejection, and economic fears lead to increased materialistic values.
- As advertising dominates the economy, the more youth become materialistic
- Many psychologists think materialists unhappiness is linked to the neglect of psychological needs. Lower levels of well-being and happiness and more distress is reported when people do not have their needs well-satisfied..
Jo-Ann Tsang (Lead study author and associate professor of psychology and neuroscience) and her research team found that materialistic people are less grateful for what they have. This in turn causes them to be more miserable, tend to be ‘me’-centred, and more focused on what they do not have instead of what they do have. Researchers state that material possessions do not equal happiness because we are able to adapt well to new situations. The more possessions we amass, the higher we raise our reference point.
Sam Harris (philosopher and neuroscientist) – researched that comparing and measuring one’s own success to others is natural but can lead to immense dissatisfaction.
Mario Pandelaere (associate professor of marketing at Ghent University who’s research interests include consumer judgement and decision making) has found a relationship between materialism and depression and that materialists are not the happiest people on average.
Rik Pieters (professor at Tilburg University) linked materialism with increasing loneliness over time and reports a correlation between loneliness and depression
So, what can we learn with all the research and information?
Simply, buying things to impress others doesn’t make you happy in the long run.
Living a minimalistic life and only owning things that truly make you happy is better for your health. You end up making more time for building stronger relationships, adventures, lasting memories, and a healthier lifestyle.
At least, this is what I truly believe.
Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.
What About Me, You Ask?
Everyone I know thinks I don’t have a lot of stuff but my drawers are full and my space is still messy. I like to think I live a minimalist lifestyle but I also like to buy stuff every once in a while. I admit, I am materialistic. Shocker, right? hahah . I love shoes, jackets and backpacks. I don’t have a lot but the stuff I do have, I really like. We all are materialistic to some extent.
So there you have it, I am materialistic and minimalistic. It’s a thing. If I buy something new, I will usually get rid of something to make space for the new item. Getting rid of things has become sort of an obsession to me.
There are times though where I’ll find something to get rid of that I couldn’t in the past because…I just couldn’t. It’s really difficult to get rid of something that you know how much you paid for. I think that’s the thing: seeing all the crap I have bought over the years and the amount of money I spent on it. It’s really embarrassing and frustrating. I can only imagine how much money I could have saved and put into investing or retirement. I think I’d be pretty rich.
There is one thing I am struggling terms of de-cluttering and I need your help. I have this photo with Teemu Selanne as well as an autograph from him from 10+ years ago and I’ve thought about tossing it out. People say I shouldn’t throw out memories and it’s cool to have that photo with him. But why? I’m not a huge fan of his and the memories I have of that hockey game I haven’t forgotten about. So am I just keeping it so that others can see how lucky I was to get a picture with him? I dunno. Maybe in a year I’ll let it go. What do you think I should do?
While researching for this post, I came across a few things for the minimalist who likes clean lines and of course I had to include this because let’s face it, if you read my last post, I need to make money and right now, affiliate marketing is all I am doing. So help a sister out and check out these items: