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Money Can't Buy You Happiness; Gratitude Can

Looking for happiness in all the wrong places?

Everyone knows that money can’t buy happiness – yet some men and women invest a lifetime of effort trying to buy their way into a satisfying life despite research and experience clearly showing that people who are materialistic are less satisfied with their standards of living, their relationships and their lives as a whole.

You might ask why pursue a goal that won't make you happy in either the short or the long term? 

With that being the case, James A. Roberts of Baylor University and two colleagues set out to explore the relationship between materialism -- making acquisition of material possessions a central focus of one's life -- and life satisfaction. They wondered if anything could make materialistic people more satisfied with their lot.

Grateful individuals are more satisfied with their lives
They chose to test how gratitude, a positive emotion experiences when someone feels another has intentionally given him or her a valued benefit, might make a materialistic person happier and more satisfied.

To test their theory, the trio analyzed the results of a questionnaire sent to 249 university students. The main results 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," they confirmed.

Shiny Objects:
Why We Spend Money
We Don't Have
in Search of Happiness
We Can't Buy
by James A Roberts
Click on image to order
However, their results also demonstrated that gratitude, and to a lesser extent, a positive attitude, both 'buffer' the negative effects of materialism, in effect: grateful individuals who work to keep a positive attitude are more satisfied with their lives.

The team observed: "Individuals high in gratitude showed less of a relationship between materialism and negative feelings about their lives. Conversely, individuals high in materialism showed decreased life satisfaction when either gratitude or positive affect was low."

The trio conclude that the 'pro-social, other-focused nature of gratitude' might help to reduce the 'self-focus' inherent in materialism.  In other words, having feelings of gratitude and working to maintain a positive attitude makes a person less self-centered, helping bring themselves out in a larger world.

Being rich isn't enough to make you happy; you also need to be grateful as well.  As attitudes are something acquired from within - reflecting on how others contribute to your material success or life as a whole will increase anyone's happiness and satisfaction with life.

Related stories:

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Story Source:  Materials provided by Taylor & Francis.  James A. Roberts, Jo-Ann Tsang, Chris Manolis. Looking for happiness in all the wrong places: The moderating role of gratitude and affect in the materialism–life satisfaction relationship. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2015.

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