It seems that much of the world spends most of its energy most of the time producing and acquiring more and more things.
It’s natural to want to live a comfortable life, without struggling financially. Everybody recognizes the need for basic requirements: decent shelter, transportation, food and clothing.
However, when having material possessions and spending money becomes a passionate endeavor in and of itself it does not necessarily improve the quality of life. One of the most surprising findings regarding human behavior is that beyond the basic needs, accumulation of money and material things do not appear to provide a corresponding increase in satisfaction and happiness.
In short, as societies become richer, they do not become happier. In fact, the opposite is true. People in the United States, Britain, continental Europe and Japan have more things than they did 50 years ago, but surveys show that they are actually less happy.
When the purpose of buying material goods is to create self-worth and personal happiness, it simply does not work. That is the paradox of living in a consumer-driven society.
Granted, money has power. With it, you can surround yourself with newer, bigger, better and finer furnishings, clothing and playthings. Money may also buy the envy of your peers or even fleeting friendship. Yet research has shown time and time again that what people need most, money cannot buy—the peace of mind that comes with moral values and meaningful pursuits.
Also consider what materialism does to the environment. Although we don’t think about it too often, creating a whole new generation of super-consumers threatens our planet. Americans consume more paper, energy and aluminum per capita than any other group on earth, and children have grown accustomed to a throwaway culture.
Make an effort to escape the excessive materialism of our times. You need not purchase the latest toy, item of clothing, electronic gadget or junk food. Children do not have to spend money that they don’t really have or buy things that they don’t really need. Don’t raise children who define their self-worth through possessions and have little or no ability to delay gratification.
Provide a little shelter from the “more is better” culture and reject the idea of creating stressed-out “super-kids” who are overscheduled with competitive activities and whose success is measured by achievement of goals that are not necessarily compatible with basic emotional enjoyment. Look for creative ways to expose children to music, literature, the arts, science and nature without spending a lot of money.
If individuals can change, then the course of the world can change. Parents can help their children reconnect to slower rhythms, non-material simple pleasures and the experience of creative, unstructured free play. When a nurturing and loving mother is interacting with her well-fed, safe and healthy child, their mutual joy and satisfaction show that opportunities for happiness are all around us, and that the ultimate goal of peace of mind is not as elusive as it often seems.
This is an excerpt from the book, What Your Pediatrician Doesn’t Know Can Hurt Your Child: A More Natural Approach to Parenting.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Susan Markel, M.D.
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Courtesy of Author