Material-driven consumers aren't only hurting their chance at being truly happy, but they're also hurting the environment, according to new research presented at the American Psychological Associations 112nd Annual Convention in Washington, D.C.
"For decades, consumerism has been on a collision course with the environment, with consumer appetites draining the planet of natural resources and accelerating global warming,” Dr. Miriam Tatzel, Empire State College, said at the conference. “One view is that we need to change consumption in order to save the planet. But what if we approached it from the other way around? What if what's good for the consumer meets what's good for the environment?"
Turns out, what’s good for both the consumer and the environment is to not be obsessed with materialism, to want and be grateful for what they already have. The less consumers give into unnecessary wants, the less landfills, energy and carbon resources are needed and impacted. Thus, a happy consumer equals a happy environment.
Another downside to materialism, as evidenced by a study out of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, is depression. Researchers found materialists were more likely to be depressed, as well as unsatisfied with their relationships and surrounding community.
"As we amass more and more possessions, we don't get any happier; we simply raise our reference point," Dr. James Roberts, the study co-author, said in a press release. "That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It's called the Treadmill of Consumption. We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don't get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill."
A better bet is to spend time instead of money. Time on practicing gratitude, appreciating the materials already in possession, and time on building relationships and an independent sense-of-self. The latter helps to lessen the weight another person's opinions hold.
Unsure about the gratitude thing? Sleep on it – literally. A study published in the Society for Personality and Social Psychology found a good night's sleep promotes gratitude, an emotion reserachers found is key to consumers overall well-being.