Minimalism doesn’t mean giving up most of your worldly possessions and living out of a backpack. You can still own a car, have a roof over your head, use a few electronics and keep more than one change of clothes.
Minimalists pare down what they have. They look at each possession and ask, “Do I really need this? Really?” They consider each item in the present context, not whether or not it might be needed in the distant future.
Some sell their homes and move into tiny houses. Others just enjoy the extra room they create by having fewer possessions. But minimalism brings more than living space. People derive psychological benefits from the lifestyle as well.
The results are in: Money really doesn’t buy happiness. A recent study found lawyers who make the least money are actually the happiest.
This mistaken correlation of money and happiness might cause some individuals to struggle for higher earnings, hoping more money will bring more satisfaction in life. Ironically, this striving could come at the expense of current happiness.
Other research shows that experiences, not possessions, lead to long-lasting happiness. Enjoyment begins when people plan and anticipate experiences such as trips, concerts and outings. Satisfaction continues during the event, as well as through later reminiscing.
The purchase of objects does not bring similar enduring pleasure. Joy fades as people get used to new belongings.
Actually, giving money away makes people happier. Another psychological investigation found people are happier when they spend money on others rather than on themselves. And this result is not affect by individuals’ income levels.
Poor self-esteem is linked to materialism. The connection appears as early as adolescence. As kids become teens, self-esteem tends to drop. At the same time, materialism is on the rise. Toward the end of high school, adolescents typically feel better about themselves. Meanwhile, their desire for possessions is waning.
However, materialism doesn’t affect just the young. Adults who unconsciously have low levels of self-esteem tend to be more materialistic. The relationship goes both ways: Materialistic adults don’t think too much of themselves.
Even if they say they have a high level of regard for themselves, it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s going on under the surface that makes a difference.
It’s all connected. Materialistic people tend to have low self-esteem. In addition, these folks often respond to high stress by shopping, as the above study shows.
They make purchase after purchase, hoping to feel better, but the opposite occurs. Impulsive spending leads to more stress.
To study the relationship between materialism and stress, researchers studied Israelis living under intense Palestinian rocket attacks for six months. The most materialistic people were the most likely to both engage in compulsive shopping and suffer post-traumatic stress.
A Little Minimalism
Minimalism is not a surefire way to become psychologically strong. There are just too many external and internal variables involved. However, minimalism is associated with benefits that help people live happier, more satisfied and calmer lives.
Plus, you’re not up to your ears in clutter. That’s both a better headspace and a better living space.