Thursday, 20 Aug 2015
The Psychology of Possessions and Owning more Experiences than Items
By Private Therapy Clinic
by Dr Becky Spelman
The psychology behind why ‘stuff’ can make us unhappy or be bad for our health
Modern society is wonderful in many ways, and the upsides of increases in technological and scientific advances has enabled us to live longer, and in more comfort, than at any other time in human history. However, the consumerism that drives our society comes with the veneration of consumer goods, or ‘stuff’, and it is this drive for consumable abundance that directly impacts our happiness.
When we receive physical gifts, we often process these through a prism of comparison against our peers, which leads to inevitable feelings of emptiness and loneliness, whereas when we receive experience gifts, particularly if they are to be experienced alongside a loved one, we process that through an entirely different field of perception, which actually increases happiness. The experience itself also releases endorphins into our bodies, which is the feelgood chemical we experience after exercise, laughter, sex, food, and other activities that provide joy.
Having experiences rather than possessions is better for us.
The irony behind modern society’s quest for the accumulation of ‘stuff’ is that many people believe they identify a certain level of freedom from the tangibility and perceived-trophy status of high value items. However, the polar opposite is frequently true, as, for most psychological mindsets, the more physical objects we own, the less free we actually feel. On the flip side, experiences with our loved ones are usually experienced through the commonly-known ‘right side’ of the brain, which broadly speaking processes our creative neural paths, and actually increases our awareness of the moment we are in, which is a direct cause of increased happiness.
The emotional benefits of owning less
There is no such thing as purely emotional and psychological health, as there is a very clear correlation between the health of our minds and the health of our bodies. Many studies have proven that it is in fact virtually impossible to maintain a truly healthy body without a healthy psychological state of mind, and so every time we increase our happiness, clarity of thought, and increased appreciation/wellbeing, we are improving our physical health at the same time.
Different types of experience highs people can try this and why they may give a psychological boost that lasts.
– Doing something scary or challenging yourself, e.g. climbing a mountain or trying surfing, wake-boarding, rock-climbing or abseiling.
To step out of your comfort zone is one of the most forward thinking activities you will ever undertake. You will shift neural patterns and behaviours, increase your ability to enjoy the moment you are in, and expand the way you perceive the world, which is proven to make you happier.
– Experiencing nature/ the natural world – stargazing in the countryside for example, or going travelling to explore a new country.
Human beings are nature’s creatures, and we forget this too quickly. To get back to nature is to help the mind reset to ‘factory settings’, which has the impact of detoxing your focus, happiness, and energy levels.
– Joining a drama or improv group – (or something that give you the buzz you get from being part of a community, meeting strangers, joining together with others)
Humans are pack animals, and we respond best to group scenarios. Survival against the harshest conditions many millennia ago from our ancestors came because of this instinct, and we still feel it in our genes today. Group singing is also a great way of channeling a shared joy, which increases your happiness in an instant.
– Doing some kind of volunteering
When you live in as selfish a society as we do, altruism becomes a rare commodity. However, the irony is that much of our selfishness is based around the search for more personal happiness, and by doing something purely for someone else, with nothing more than appreciation from another, we increase our happiness more so than almost anything else.
Because we live in a world governed by the accumulation of items, we have collectively become used to assigning sentimental value to many things around us. These visual memories can be lovely heirlooms, but they can also be albatrosses around our necks, dragging us into the past, at a time when we could be living in the present. By losing clutter, we increase our ability to be present, and open up our minds to future possibilities, rather than be weighed down by the past.
If you would like to find out more about this topic, contact the Private Therapy Clinic by telephone on: 020 81507563 or book online by clicking below.