Do we really need quite so many things?

Are we becoming too materialistic in the modern western world? I have to admit that in my teens and early twenties (and even two years ago) I craved glamourous parties, designer shoes and expensive restaurants. I thought that if I had the latest Prada hanging off of my arm and that I was at the hottest party in the same room as the likes of Jude Law and Kiera Knightly that I would have somehow ‘made it’. I can tell you now, that I have been to that party, and that at the end of the day these immensely famous people are just that, people. People like you and me. What is it about these ‘things’ and these ‘people’ that are deemed the mark of success in the 21st century?

If you are lucky enough or work hard enough you may get that promotion with a huge pay rise and you’ll feel that high, but for how long? When will you want more – a bigger house, another car, a massive projector screen that pulls out in the lounge for the football or a SATC marathon? Everyone is entitled to spend their money how they see fit, and even more so if you have to work ridiculously hard to get it. However after a stressful year I have begun to see things in a completely new light. I no longer want to spend my entire savings on one handbag or feel the need to have my nails done on a regular basis. As long as I have a roof over my head and enough money to feed and clothe myself the only thing I need to be happy is my friends and family. Without them I wouldn’t be here. I am not saying that if you choose to spend your money on these things then you are shallow, just that you should make sure that you are buying these things for you, and not as a badge of status and success to attest to the rest of the world. The people that are most liked and respected are those that are kind, friendly and genuine – these are qualities that money cannot buy.

It has been proven by psychological research that as long as our basic needs are met (i.e. we are fed, clothed and watered) money and success only make us want more. We are never entirely satisfied. A hormone is released when we are happy, giving us the feeling of elation – when we win the lottery, get a pay rise or even get paid a compliment. The feeling of exhilaration wears off after a certain amount of time and you soon become used to having £3m in your bank account as your life normalises and your hormones stabilise. This is when you feel the need to get the next promotion, want to buy an expensive car or maybe have plastic surgery. You need the next ‘thing’. However, if your aim in life is to live long and be healthy – as is usually the case in less privileged communities – where having enough money to attain their basic needs is sufficient, your expectations of life are low and your happiness levels are high.

By no means am I reproaching people for buying luxury items, more suggesting that if you are still lacking the feeling of satisfaction even after your purchases that perhaps you should look at other ways of filling that void. Why not make more of an effort to keep in contact with friends, visit your parents more often and look into volunteering for a local charity. These are the ‘things’ and ‘people’ that will be helping me in my pursuit for happiness in 2011.

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