Source: American Psychological Association

The Big Takeaway: Materialism doesn’t typically have a positive relationship with well-being. Getting more “stuff” doesn’t always make you feel better about yourself. However, these negative correlations can be even stronger during the holidays as people cope with conflict between religious and materialistic pursuits.

The Details:

What is the reason for the season? In today’s consumer-driven world, it often feels like there are two primary reasons for the holiday season: buying presents and spirituality. For those of us with a materialistic mindset, these two “reasons” feel at odds with one another, causing internal conflict and even more stress during an already-stressful time of year.

Consider some of the ideas from this article from the American Psychological Association. People with a materialistic mindset believe their well-being is linked to the possessions they own. The better their image, the more money they have, or the better stuff they own, the higher their self-worth. Social media, advertising, and entertainment all reinforce this idea and promote a money-driven mindset.

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While a materialistic mindset might not be the best for a person’s well-being (there are plenty of studies showing a negative correlation between materialism and well-being), this correlation is amplified during the holidays.

According to Tim Kasser, a professor of psychology at Knox College specializing in materialism and well-being, the spirituality of the holidays creates an internal conflict for those with a materialistic mindset.

On one hand, materialistic people put huge value on buying presents and things during the holiday season. It’s basically the biggest materialistic holiday of the year! On the other hand, religious teachings about the holidays tend to lean more toward avoiding materialistic goals and pursuing inner peace.

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How can someone pursue materialistic and religious goals at the same time? They often can’t, which leads to inner conflict, stress, and even lower well-being.

One study conducted by Kasser and his co-author Ken Sheldon found that the more someone focuses their holiday season around materialistic goals, the less they focused on spiritual goals. Even more, people who were focused more on the spirituality of the holidays reported higher levels of well-being than those who were more materialistic-focused.

As we head into the holiday season, it’s important to think about your focus. Are you more interested in the spiritual aspects of the holidays, or do you lean more toward materialistic pursuits? Learning where you land on the spectrum might help you create a “merrier” holiday experience with less inner conflict and higher levels of well-being. And you can learn about your current level of financial wellness with this quick quiz. 

About Erik Garcia

Hi there, I'm Erik. How you manage your money and other resources impacts practically every aspect of your life. I help individuals and families invest plan for a more secure and predictable financial future. Thanks for taking time on my site!

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