10 Reasons Why Materialism Might Harm Mental Health

10 Reasons Why Materialism Might Harm Mental Health

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There’s no doubt that our society is driven by materialism. Yet, your senses are mesmerized by media and social influencers who strive for more. Instead of just “keeping up with the Joneses,” they urge you to surpass them.

The message isn’t even as subliminal as in the past. If you want to be perceived as the wealthiest, most intelligent, and most successful person in your social circle, you need more. So, when you strain your finances to buy a sports car, a massive home, and all the bling of current fashion, do they make you any happier?

Can Materialism Affect Your Mental Health?

Humans have basic needs that must be met, both tangible and psychological. Your tangible needs include food, water, shelter, and clothing. Companionship, acceptance, affection, and validation are among your essential psychological needs.

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Any other things you have are merely fringe benefits and aren’t necessarily essential for life. A study published by Psychological Science ponders the relationship between worldly goods and happiness. It discusses the work of scholar Rabbi Hymen Schechtal, who believed that happiness depends not on having what you want but on wanting what you have.

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The studies concluded that for people to be happy, they need a delicate balance between the two. So, what is the link between the things you have and your mental well-being? No doubt, buying the goods you want makes you happy, or at least for a while. Here are ten reasons for you to consider how materialism may harm your mental health.

1. Materialism Often Causes Conditional Happiness

We’ve all been guilty of daydreaming, sighing, and saying, “If only I could have this or that, then my happiness will be complete.” It’s the iconic delusion that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. When you get the item, job, car, or house of your dreams, it won’t be long until you view more grassy fields.

If you haven’t learned to be grateful and content, this vortex of wanting more can be psychologically damaging. You may experience depression and anxiety because you think you “need” something. It comes down to discerning the difference between a need and a want.

2. Acceptance is a Basic Human Need

An article published by Simply Psychology references Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. In the middle of Maslow’s pyramid diagram are psychological conditions, including fulfilling relationships and acceptance. Although you can still exist without them, you would be broken mentally and emotionally.

It’s not selfish for you to need acceptance from your loved ones, friends, and peers. But do you think that your family and friends only base their approval on what you have? Today’s media and advertising are masterminds at the powers of suggestion and blurring the lines between worldly goods and self-worth.

Your whole perception of acceptance may be skewed. If you have people in your circle who only want you for what you have, you don’t need them. When you equate acceptance with possessions, you’ll never feel accepted.

3. Some People Become Hoarders

Unless you’re a confirmed minimalist, you probably have a little clutter hanging around your house. It’s not uncommon for something to catch your eye, and you buy it, whether you need it or not. Another excuse for overbuying is to hoard up a stack of items for “later” or “because they were on sale.”

Our early ancestors learned to gather and preserve as much as they could to survive. It’s a genetic disposition that continues in modern humans. Unfortunately, the hoarding gene goes in overdrive for some people, and they are drowning in stuff.

While it is wise to save preserved food and other necessities just in case, it can overtake your life. If your home is bursting at the seams with piles of things you’ll never use, it can cause mental issues. On the one hand, you are depressed because you don’t have space to breathe yet getting rid of stuff brings anxiety.

4. Allowing Society to Dictate Your Life

You would have to find a place back in the deepest wilderness to escape the hypnotic draw of society’s unrealistic expectations. Media giants capitalize on human nature as they paint a distorted picture of what you need to have the best life.

Buy this clothing brand, and you will be an instant sex symbol. Go into Debt and buy this new gadget or that new trend if you want to look rich and famous. It’s a perpetual race that you’ll never win because there will always be another gadget.

5. Consequences of Materialism

What do you consider as your most significant assets? According to the market, you can assign a monetary value to your home, vehicles, and other possessions. However, what price can you put on good health, loving family and friends, and the beauty of the natural world?

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If you put all the emphasis on materialism, it will cost you in more ways than one. A report published by Debt, states that the total debt of American households as of the spring of 2021, was a staggering 14.1 trillion dollars. That’s an average of $90,460 per American, including their mortgage, credit cards, and other loans. If you did an honest review of your monthly expenses, how much is from unnecessary spending?

Frivolous spending is a double-edged sword that can destroy financial stability, relationships, and mental well-being. If you are struggling under massive debt that you accrued in the hopes of “measuring up,” you may lose it all in bankruptcy. You are more apt to developmental issues because of the strain on your income and relationships with your mate and family.

6. It May Cause You to Create a False Reality

It’s a perennial plot in countless books, movies, and tv shows. One of the main characters wants to impress somebody, so they take on another identity. They may also deceive others by making them think they are successful millionaires to hide their average life.

The urge to comply with Hollywood’s illusions may tempt you to be something you’re not. It feels satisfying when people judge you favorably by your possessions. As a result, you may be tempted to stretch the truth a bit to make your job look more lucrative and your life more luxurious.

7. You May Become More Judgmental

People who are overly critical of others usually are hiding low self-esteem. If you measure your self-worth by your possessions, you may soon use the same unfair ruler for other people. You may find yourself instantly approving of a stranger because they live in the best neighborhoods, drive an expensive car, and wear the finest designer clothes.

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Sadly, you may turn your nose up at people who don’t fit into the false mold created by society. Perhaps you could miss out on a good friendship or a new love interest just because you judged them by what they have or don’t have.

Your mental health is at risk when you are bound to judge and criticize others. It can create negative thought patterns that can spoil personal and professional relationships. Negativity can slowly encapsulate you in loneliness, depression, and bitterness.

8. Price vs Cost vs Value

Does this sound like a familiar scenario? You are wandering through your favorite department store and see a gorgeous pair of shoes beckoning your attention. Unfortunately, you don’t need any more shoes, they only match one outfit, and they are a bit tight.

However, you buy them anyway because they are a designer pair, and they’re on sale. This is only a simple example of a more complex spending problem. The items can be clothes, shoes, electronics, motorcycles, collectibles, or anything.

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Unfortunately, when you are caught up in possessions, you soon lose your understanding of price, cost, and value. Those shoes you bought may have a price tag of $100, but they’ll cost you more. It’s taken away money that you could have used for a necessity and will take up space you don’t have.

Additionally, wearing ill-fitting shoes can cause foot issues that require medical attention. After you calculate the price and associated costs, have these added value to you? Since they only match one outfit, they will probably stay in the back of your closet with the other castaways.

How has this splurge purchase brought any real or perceived value to your life?

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9. Nothing is Special Anymore

If somebody asked you why you bought a particular item, you might reply that it’s unique to you. You could go around the house and say that everything has intrinsic value in your eyes. Ironically, if everything is amazing, then nothing is special.

This mindset may bring about hoarding tendencies or general dissatisfaction with everything. You may compulsively shop to fill that hole in your soul that feels lonely and “not good enough.” Things may hold your attention for the moment, but you may soon pitch them aside and go into debt for the newest shopping fix.

10. You Can Lose Site of Intangible Wealth

When you start measuring your happiness and success by dollar signs and possessions, you lose sight of life’s real treasures. Money can’t buy true love and acceptance from family and friends. You can’t write a check for one more stunning sunrise nor the blessings of good health.

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Final Thoughts on Materialism and Mental Health

What if you awoke tomorrow morning and had only those things that you valued the most? Obsessing about getting more can risk your mental health. Instead, learn to be grateful for what you have and treasure your loving relationships and many blessings. Your life will be far richer than you ever imagined.

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Deborah is a full-time editor, blogger, and children's book author. Her book series helps children with anxiety overcome the challenges in everyday life using kindness and courage. She holds a Bachelor's of Science degree in Secondary Education English and a Spanish minor from the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and is a verified member of the US Press Association. Her commitment to mental and physical wellness transcends from her writing career into her daily lifestyle. When she's not working on one of her many writing projects, you will find Deborah working in her garden or advocating for the community gardening movement to help end hunger. She holds her master herbalist certification and is pursuing her Master Gardener certification.

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