I suppose it was probably some cosmic message being sent to me by the Universe to help me balance my chakras and keep my aura untarnished… Yes indeed, a message, a sign, something that I ought not deem a coincidence happened just yesterday…. A piece of research popped up on my blog reader’s feed at the same time as I have been finalising my latest audio programme about developing a wealthy mindset. It gives me the opportunity to write a blog entry about a subject whilst simultaneously mentioning in a subtle fashion that I am about to launch a new audio programme… Such synchronicity…
Nb. For those of you that do not know me – the above paragraph is drenched in irony. The lowest form of wit. I plan for the remainder of this blog entry to be free from such cheap shots.
A recent piece of research conducted at Baylor University entitled “Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction” by Tsang and colleagues, published in the Journal of Individual Differences this year suggests that if you are a materialistic person you are more likely to also be depressed and unsatisfied with your life.
The study highlights something that I see within my therapy consulting rooms a great deal – that there is often a gap, a chasm, that exists between where we are and where we want to be – the gap creates dissatisfaction in many. The idea presented in this research is that by continuing to focus on what you want, you are inherently aware of what you don’t have, which in turn makes it harder for you to appreciate and be satisfied with what you do already have.
One of the findings of the research therefore, was that a person who is more materialistic experienced less gratitude and subsequently was more dissatisfied with life. Here’s a picture of some money to break things up a bit here…
Psychology research tends to suggest that gratitude plays an important part in our lives and contributes to our levels of satisfaction. You can go and research it yourself, go to PubMed, Plosone or even search in google scholar and you’ll find a bunch of research to support this notion. Here are just a few references that I have explored:
Emmons, R. A., McCullough, M. E. (2003) Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 84(2), pp. 377-389.
McCullough, M. E., Kilpatrick, S. D., Emmons, R. A. & Larson, D. B. (2001) Is gratitude a moral affect? Psychological Bulletin, Vol 127(2), pp. 249-266.
Emmons, R. A., & Shelton, R. M. (2002) Gratitude and the science of positive psychology. In Handbook of positive psychology, S. E. Wright (Ed).
Froha, J. F., Sefickb, W. J. & Emmons, R. A. (2008) Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being. Journal of School Psychology. Volume 46, Issue 2, pp. 213–233
Grant, A. M. & Gino, F. (2010) A little thanks goes a long way: Explaining why gratitude expressions motivate prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 98(6), pp. 946-955.
…… The notion of gratitude then, is an evidence-based one. Who’d have thought it?
One of the authors of the recent study I am writing about today (James Roberts) states the following:
“Our ability to adapt to new situations may help explain why ‘more stuff’ doesn’t make us any happier. As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier — we simply raise our reference point. 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.”
The authors go on to quote the Greek philosopher Epicurus:
“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.”
I love that. Anyone who derives pleasure from hardcore shopping should have this quote sewn into the inside of their wallet or purse!
This has helped me a great deal. That is, this notion has been useful for me personally, but it also has helped me to fortify a central notion within my own new audio programme about developing a wealth mindset; that you should choose how you interpret the notion of wealth. Also, that you do not think of wealth in purely financial terms. For me, wealth is being able to have enough time to spend with my children as they grow up, time to train for marathons, time to research for my PhD – as well as earning enough money to keep us in the lifestyle that we currently have.
Many classic wealth and personal development texts/books (Prosperity, As a Man Thinketh, The Power of Your Subconscious Mind, just for starters) use the metaphor that the mind is like a fertile garden and that the thoughts we place into it subsequently manifest themselves into what we get in life.
Well, this notion of gratitude makes that metaphorical garden far, far more fertile.
When I plan for each new year ahead, my business partner Keith and I also like to have a retrospective look at the year that has just passed. We look at what went well, we look at what projects earned us money, we look at what we enjoyed and so on. Away from my work, I also record a yearly film of my family and all the times we had together that I want to give to my kids as a collection of films when they are older to show them how life was growing up.
It has been my experience, that lots of people reflect upon periods of time and recall personal loss and trauma which I understand, however many people also take it a step further and remind themselves of things they did not do or should have done, things they did not accomplish. This is potentially problematic and goes against the notion of expressing gratitude.
Be realistic, and don’t just ignore the bad stuff (it can be valuable learning), but also reflect and review with gratitude. Concentrate on what went right and what you did do well.
Even if you are missing people that may not be in your life anymore, or you have not reduced those extra few pounds from your waistline, or didn’t earn your first billion pounds with your invention you presented to the Dragon’s in their Den, that may not be a valid reason to be upset or reflect negatively.
Consider those that are no longer with us and see if you can be grateful for the love you shared with them, and the laughs you had together. I would love my Grandparents to have met my children. It saddens me that they will not get to do so. But I love remembering what I learned from them and I am grateful for the parties I had in their homes and the laughs in the pub, the Christmases enjoyed and so on. They enriched my life greatly.
It’s a challenge to think about the things you have already got, if you are distracted with wanting other things all the time. It’s difficult to think about the things you did do, when you’re concentrating so hard on the things you didn’t do.
Being grateful for what you have and what you have done is something that you can do at anytime to receive the benefits. Many authors tend to believe that if you want more of something, then simply be grateful for the things you already have. I don’t want to reach that far even. Simply use gratitude to advance your degree of satisfaction with life – because that is being wealthy.
One of the simplest ways to benefit from gratitude is to create an ongoing, ever-developing list of all the things you have in your life. This can include ‘stuff’ if you want – a roof over your head, a means of transport, a favourite jacket.
‘Things’ do not have to be physical things either. You can be thankful for the love you have in your life, relationships, friendships, laughter as well as the knowledge you have, feelings you enjoy and everything in between.
A lot of modern TV culture tends to have young people in particular yearning to be famous, yearning to have millions of pounds to live the lifestyles of those they see on the telly, and this creates a gulf between that dream and where they currently are. Why not enjoy and be grateful for the entertainment they provide instead? Be grateful for having the capacity to dream?
Be grateful for the sunrise you saw when you drove to work early, the colour of your hair, your current home, the dinner you enjoyed, and just about everything else you can think of. Then build your list, add to it regularly.
If you want to be evidence-based about it, conduct your own research experiment: express gratitude for a week and record your findings and/or any differences in your life – then decide if the differences make it worthwhile doing some more.
Consider creating another list; an “accomplishments and achievements” list. Write down all the things that you are proud of that you have done in your life.
This does not have to be exclusively massive things like “discovered cure for common cold” – it can be experiences you shared with family, jokes you shared with friends, times you got your to-do list emptied and felt mega-productive, etc.
When you have finished your lists (one for accomplishments, one for all the things you have in your life to be grateful about) enjoy reading it back to yourself. Be grateful for every single thing on those lists. Keep the list handy, review it daily, add to them, and get the gratitude perpetuating. Make it an integral part of your day to reflect with gratitude. Offer yourself some ongoing encouragement, praise, acceptance and gratitude – it’ll make you feel wealthier!
I am extremely grateful for you, someone who chose to read something I have to say – thanks. If however, you choose to ignore all of this, then you can simply enjoy one of my favourite songs that featured in the TV series Breaking Bad instead:
I detect more than one occurrence of irony in your article, more on that later…
Could it be perhaps interesting to explore the word « materialism » a little deeper.
Today, we consider someone « a materialist » when he or she is only interested in amassing vast quantities of « matter », someone obsessed with things. The materialists are being opposed to those believing in some kind of afterlife, holding the belief that earthly possessions are of no value where we’ll be going « after ». One side says « you only live once », the other « there is another world waiting for you ».
The paradox is that the philosophical term « materialist » refers to someone that holds a conception of the world as only being made of matter. For a materialist, everything is made of matter, it does not exclude the idea of a deity or even that something exists after our earthly journey. Materialism posits that should there be a god or some kind of afterlife, they are just made of ordinary matter. What materialism refutes is the idea of different levels of reality, materialism refutes transcendence, the idea of lower worlds made of matter and upper worlds made of something else.
As such, materialism opposes dualism or idealism as championed by Plato (and of course by various churches because this philosophy fitted more with their ideas…) ,where our world is just a pale copy of an perfect world made of ideas.
As a materialist, I don’t consider that collecting things is good or bad, I have no judgement, mind you, I often do it myself.
On the other hand, becoming too attached to things can become a real psychological problem and an obstacle to a balanced life, that is where we, as hypnotherapists, can help.
If, like me, you attach importance to the meaning of words, and I think you do, you will understand my point of view.
In opposition to most of your peers, hypnosis is a field you like to champion as a scientific one, hypnosis is not just a word, it is something you will stand for.
Couldn’t we do the same with tortured words like materialism…?
The irony, of course, is that Epicurus was…a materialist…
What about you…?
It would be lovely to discuss the notion of materialism and the semantics of the word further – but whatever we title the concept I refer to in this blog entry, some evidence tends to suggest that by always striving for more than we have, the gulf created tends to make people feel unhappy or dissatisfied. Thus being grateful for what you do have and what you have accomplished is a lovely antidote.
Onto discussing the nature and true meaning of materialism… I learned a lot of new things here in your answer, which made me very happy. I’ll go and read some more and perhaps be better prepared for that discussion 🙂 … But it is on my agenda for the next time we sit down for drinks together.
Adam, your blogs are always interesting but this one really got my brain juices running. I especially liked the quote from Epicurius which will now be committed to memory and used to amaze my friends and clients.
Seriously, I do find that ancient quotes that still ring true today often seem to have a big impact on people, presumably because they have stood the test of time.
I wonder which of your pearls of wisdom will be quoted in 2k years time?
Thank you Peter. I think most therapeutic intervention has some root in ancient philosophy and I am more amazed to find out how most things/concepts/ideas I use personally and professionally for enhancing well-being existed thousands of years ago! 🙂