How much stuff do you need for happiness?

Written on Thursday, November 24th, 2011 at 11:33 am by Christiane

Are you getting ready for Black Friday? Before you join in the frenzy of holiday gift buying, just consider for a minute the results of a legendary research study.

In 1978 researchers presented a sample of adults a list of 24 big-ticket items such as a car, travel, a house, and so on. They were asked how many of these items they already possessed and which things on the list were part of having “the good life” as they would define it. 16 years later, in 1994, the same people were interviewed again with the same questions and presented with the same list.

Result: In 1978, the study participants felt that “the good life” would require having more things than they possessed at that time. Those in their twenties had in average 1.7 things from the list but thought they needed 4.4 items for “the good life”. 16 years later, the participants had more objects acquired (3.1 items in average) and thus were closer to their original wishes, but now they thought they needed even more stuff (in average 5.6 items) to have a “good life”.

In summary, having more possessions didn’t really change the difference between “Have already” and “Want to Have”, leading to the conclusion: The More We Have, The More We Want.

If you want to know what to give for Christmas that actually could increase happiness, stay tuned. Next time, I will write about “Gifts that spread Joy and Happiness”.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Christiane Turnheim is a Life& Career Coach and a psychology teacher at a Community College in the Boston area. You can reach her at <>.

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