Happiness can be compatible with being materialistic under the right circumstances.
People who are more materialistic are generally less satisfied with life.
They are less satisfied with their relationships, less satisfied with their standard of living and generally experience fewer positive emotions.
But encouraging an attitude of gratitude could be the answer to greater satisfaction for materialistic people, according to a recent study.
Being grateful for what they have could help people enjoy a life which focuses more on the acquisition of material possessions.
The study’s authors write:
“Given the negative relationship that materialism has with positive affect, it stands to reason that positive affect and related constructs such as gratitude might be important moderators in the association between materialism and life satisfaction.
In contrast to materialism, gratitude is a positive emotion that is experienced when someone perceives that another person has intentionally given him or her a valued benefit.”
For the study 249 people completed a survey, the main results of which were as expected:
“People who pursue happiness through material gain tend to feel worse, and this is related to negative appraisals of their satisfaction with life.”
That said, people who were more grateful for what they had did not see the same drops in life satisfaction as those who were less grateful.
The study’s authors continued:
“Individuals high in gratitude showed less of a relationship between materialism and negative affect.
Additionally, individuals high in materialism showed decreased life satisfaction when either gratitude or positive affect was low.”
The benefits of gratitude could be partly down to a focus on other people.
One of the reasons that materialism can kill positive emotions is that it encourages people to be selfish.
“Specifically, individuals who are able to appreciate what they have even while engaging in materialistic pursuits might be able to be maintain high levels of life satisfaction.”
The study was published in The Journal of Positive Psychology (Roberts et al., 2015).