Is Materialism Harming Your Mental Health?

239338877_18420a556d.jpgThe World Health Organisation predicts that depression will be the second most common disease by 2010. Among the many research studies trying to pinpoint causes of depression, a growing number are reporting that our consumeristic lifestyle may be at fault.

Stuff vs Self: Materialism Blamed for Increase in Depression 

John Abela, professor of psychology at McGill University has conducted a study of teenagers in Montreal and Shanghai, and he believes that China’s recent massive cultural change and eager adoption of materialism is to blame for increased depression rates in the country.

Similar research has found that nearly 50% of American students had suffered from depression, anxiety, or feelings of hopelessness at least once in the year 2006. And, as in China, materialism is once again suspected as being a big part of the problem.

In McGill University magazine professor Abela states: “Materialists have a fragile sense of self because their worth depends on attaining external things. The quality of their interpersonal relationships suffers and they feel more stress while pursuing extrinsic goals.”

Are We Raising a Society of Materialistic Children?

Studies are also showing that children as young as six can be affected by valuing the acquisition of objects over and above playing with others and developing healthy friendships. Psychologist Tim Kasser has reported that materialistic children have low self-esteem and are less happy than their peers, children brought up to value stuff more than self also show signs of anxiety.

I don’t like the thought of children growing up with messed up values. It’s easy as parents to want to provide them with the latest toy, or fashion accessory, but are we doing them a disservice by taking these things so seriously? I think so.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to see how much children love being read to, how much they love riding their bikes with us while we take a walk, or swimming, playing outdoor games, learning a martial art, or yoga, or even how to meditate. These activities build confidence and self-esteem, they are simple pleasure and skills that can protect our children from becoming a depressed teenage statistic, or worse using “recreational” drugs to numb sadness and anxiety.

The Quest for Happiness Gone Mad

Everyone wants to be happy. But in a world where we’re bombarded with adverts to get this, and wear that we’re losing touch with the simple art of quiet personal contentment.

Fads, fashion and gadgets will never make us feel good about ourselves; they are just another diversion from natural peace and contentment. The pleasure of buying something is fleeting, it doesn’t truly satisfy us, and for some the drive to acquire is so strong that they will shop again and again adding building debts to their ever increasing stress and anxiety.

The Simple Art of Self-Investment

The dictionary defines materialism as a: preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.

The experts are now confirming what Ayurveda has taught for centuries: materialistic thinking is detrimental to our emotional well-being.

One of the easiest ways to build genuine self esteem that stands independent of  what we buy and what we wear is to spend some time investing in our internal life.

Learning a simple calming breathing exercise, or spending time daily in prayer or meditation, or taking a walk in nature, are three easy inroads to increasing inner contentment and reducing the need to look outside for something that might lift our spirits.

Too Simple to be Good?

The only way to know it actually works is to try it. Here are some resources you can download now to indulge yourself in the cultivation of inner peace. Share them with your friends, do them with your children, and enjoy cultivating calm and good esteem!

Beautiful Calm Meditation & Relaxation ebook (free)
Beautiful Calm Meditation & Relaxation MP3 collection
Music for Relaxation and Meditation

Related articles you might find of interest:

Anxiety: Why Getting More Stuff is Not the Answer
How I Raise my Vibes

Meditation: Is 5 Minutes really Enough
What if I’m Too Tense to Relax
Breath, Mind and Mood

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Photo Credit: "Consumerism at it's Finest" by Augapfel