“What if what’s good for the consumer meets what’s good for the environment?” asked Dr. Miriam Tatzel of Empire State College.
The basic needs to be able to pursue happiness include competence, autonomy, positive relationships, self-acceptance and personal growth. But research has shown that striving for more money and possessions actually takes time away from activities and bonds that would be fulfilling, and hurts self-esteem if it’s based on others’ perceptions. In this, Tatzel pointed out, consumerism not only strains natural resources, it doesn’t benefit people.
“The larger the gap between what one wants and what one has, the greater the dissatisfaction. Less materialism equals more happiness,” she said at a recent American Psychological Association conference.
By contrast, a study earlier this year showed that frugal people are generally happier — which may be because they avoid the consequences of spending too much, including debt, she said. Experiences, meanwhile, have been shown in studies to give people more lasting happiness than new possessions.