The Secret to Life? Gratitude

One of my favorite sayings -- and one I have to remind myself of just about every day -- is, don't have what you want, want what you have.

It's so true.  And now a new study has found that those who do just that are happier than the ones who want it all.  

It probably shouldn't be a surprise.  But people who are materialistic are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied, in part because they find it harder to be grateful for what they have, according to 

My husband and I have struggled financially for some years, due to a lot of circumstances. He's a healthcare professional who's seen his earnings be whittled down bit by bit as insurance companies rev up their profits by slicing the supplier.  My own career has taken a wrong turn, as well.  I still love what I do (write), but you can't buy very much when the market is now paying $7.50 per article (thank you, Internet, where people can get it for free).

We have some family and friends who are quite well off -- pools in their backyards, first-class vacations to the Galapagos and Dominican Republic,shoes that cost more than my husband's salary in a month. But these are some of the people least satisfied with life, it would seem.

Instead of being grateful for what they have, they want more.  Bigger yachts, pricier cars, or, like the luxury condos in New York, living environments with an average price of $1.7 million. 

Sure, it would be nice to be able to go out to dinner more than once a week, and take a vacation once in a while.  But there are people who can't even do that, and we probably enjoy it more than those for whom it's a common occurrence.

“Gratitude is a positive mood. It’s about other people,” quotes study lead author Jo-Ann Tsang, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Previous research that we and others have done finds that people are motivated to help people that help them — and to help others as well. We’re social creatures, and so focusing on others in a positive way is good for our health.”

But materialism tends to be “me-centered.” A material outlook focuses on what one does not have, impairing the ability to be grateful for what one already has, researchers said, the Web site paraphrases the study.

“Our ability to adapt to new situations may help explain why ‘more stuff’ doesn’t make us any happier,” said study co-author James Roberts, Ph.D., holder of The Ben H. Williams Professorship in Marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business. “As we amass more and more possessions, we don’t get any happier - we simply raise our reference point,” he said. “That new 2,500-square-foot house becomes the baseline for your desires for an even bigger house. It’s called the Treadmill of Consumption. We continue to purchase more and more stuff but we don’t get any closer to happiness, we simply speed up the treadmill.”

Remember that study from a couple of years ago that said that people who made up to $75,000 were the happiest?  Any more than that did not make you happier, it turned out.

Some of my ability to be grateful for what I have most likely came out of my fight with a deadly disease almost a decade ago.  I was so happy to be able to be treated and found to be cancer-free that breathing the outside air was a gift to me. Sadly, I've lost some of that but it doesn't take much to remind me that I have everything I need, at this moment in time. 


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