You can’t buy your way to happiness, they say. And it seems to be true: more stuff, more money and more possessions probably won’t result in a better life, a happier life.
Some of the happiest people I have met have what most people would think of as next to nothing.
But they do have are good relationships with friends and family, care for the world and a positive outlook on life.
Do they really have nothing?
Research into materialism, minimalism and wellbeing
A journal article published just this year looked at the transition process from a materialistic consumer-based lifestyle to a minimalistic and intentional lifestyle.
Some of the key phrases that caught my attention include:
- In contemporary culture it is natural to think that purchasing and owning the ‘right’ possessions results in happiness.
- Materialistic values (money, image, fame) seem to be increasing in Millennials (born after 1982) whereas goals related to intrinsic values (self-acceptance, affiliation, community) are considered less important.
- A substantial body of evidence including correlational and experimental studies has proven materialistic values to be associated with diminished personal well-being across a broad array of well-being constructs.
- Voluntary Simplicity focuses on the reduction of material consumption and removal of clutter from an individual’s life without feelings of deprivation, this is different from poverty, which can be defined as involuntary simplicity.
- Minimalism as a lifestyle is about a ‘reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life’.
5 stages to minimalism (and living a meaningful life)
The author goes on to say there are five key stages involved in the transition from materialistic to minimalistic.
Essentially, it is
- a journey from finding discontentment in life,
- making a decision to change,
- going within and reassessing what is actually important in life,
- changing perspective on identity and
- holding intrinsic values at the centre of the value system.
It is from here, the author suggests, that we a ready to live a happy and meaningful life.
If this all sounds straight forward, what can you let go of to make space for the things that really matter?
How can you make space for family, friends, community?
How can you show a genuine care for the world, rather than focus on what you might buy at the next Black Friday/Christmas/holiday sales?
Are you a collector? A stuff person? Is there still a place or argument for owning things? Do you think the minimalism thing has gone too far? Or do you feel a sense of relief when you let go of stuff you no longer need? Let us know in the comments below.
References and other resources
- Hausen JE. Minimalist life orientations as a dialogical tool for happiness. Br J Guid Couns. 2019;47(2):168-179. doi:10.1080/03069885.2018.1523364