Materialism and Happiness

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Updated: Apr 30, 2024
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Materialism and Happiness

This essay will discuss the relationship between materialism and happiness, exploring how the pursuit of material possessions impacts individual well-being and life satisfaction. It will examine psychological theories and research findings on the subject, discussing the potential negative effects of materialism on mental health and social relationships. The essay will also offer perspectives on finding balance and redefining success beyond material wealth. At PapersOwl too, you can discover numerous free essay illustrations related to Emotion.

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At one moment in our lifetime we have felt the feeling of happiness. Happiness can come into our lives through many ways such as spending time with family and friends, getting hired at a facility or even something as small as eating your favorite dessert. Many people can tell another person about the times that they have felt happy but, what really is happiness? According to Psychology Today, the meaning of happiness is defined as, “someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger” (Psychology Today).

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Happiness can be categorized into three different types, explained scientifically and viewed through a philosophical perspective.

There are many ways someone could feel this emotion and there has been research over the possible factors affecting one’s happiness. Some of these factors include, attachment and relatedness, attitude towards our physical well-being, goals and self-performance, social status and money, types of personality, our positive and negative sentiments, and time and location. The types of happiness can also be generalized into three categorizes, pleasure, passion and purpose. Happiness through pleasure is a short spike of happiness that can be experienced through meeting friends, going to a party or watching a movie that usually ends when the action is over. Happiness through passion is stronger and lasts longer than pleasure. This can be seen when a person dedicates so much time and effort into something they have been working on and feels proud about what they have accomplished. The last category is happiness through purpose. When one is experiencing happiness through purpose, a person can feel appreciated and as if they are a part of something such as a family. This is when someone really understands the why behind their what he or she does. The level of purpose happiness is superior amongst the others because it is long lasting and truly meaningful. Of course there are also negative ways in which people can feel happiness. For example, people could feel happiness through perfectionism which involve unrealistic goals , social comparison, materialism which people attach their happiness to objects and money and maximizing. A negative example of feeling happiness through bad patterns include doing drugs for the good feeling it brings, breaking the laws to feel superior and hurting other people’s feelings to make oneself feel good.

In order for humans to feel happiness, our brains must produce chemical reactions. Although there are many different types of molecules that the brain manufactures, there are seven that stand out more than the others. The seven molecules include endocannabinoids, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, GABA, serotonin and adrenaline. Endocannabinoids are naturally produced cells in humans and are cannabinoid receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system which are involved in various human functions such as appetite, pain sensation, mood and memory. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is in charge of the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses, and it enables a person not only to see rewards, but also to take action to move toward them. Oxytocin is a hormone that influences human bonding and sexual reproduction. According to Psychology Today, “in some studies, high levels of oxytocin have been correlated with romantic attachment. Some studies show if a couple is separated for a long period of time, the lack of physical contact reduces oxytocin and drives the feeling of longing to bond with that person again” (The Neurochemicals Of Happiness). Endorphins are chemicals that are in charge of blocking pain and controlling emotions. Endorphin levels often increase when a person is working out, feeling happy or during sexual intercourse. GABA is a short term for gamma-Aminobutyric acid. GABA is an inhibitory molecule that slows down neurons and creates a feeling of calmness. GABA can be negatively increased by drugs such as xanax but it can also be increased positively by activities such as yoga or meditation. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that greatly contributes to feelings of well-being and happiness. There are many important reasons why serotonin is so important to humans. Some of which include the regulation of mood, social behavior, appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, and sexual desire. Low levels of serotonin is often associated with depression. The seventh molecule is adrenaline.

Adrenaline is responsible for the flight or fight response. The release of adrenaline creates a sudden surge of energy that can make one feel very alive. (Happiness & All You Need To Know About The Science Behind It).

Happiness is important for human beings because it gives a reason to live. Happiness can help us achieve goals and can help us not only change our lives but other people’s lives. When a person is not happy, it can lead to the feeling of being lost, depressed and even thoughts of taking their own lives. According to The Greater Good Science Based Insights for a Meaningful Life,

“Broaden our thinking in ways that make us more flexible, more able to see the big picture, and more creative. Accumulate and compound over time, transforming us for the better by building the resources—strength, wisdom, friendship, and resilience—we need to truly thrive. Are the most important ingredient in determining a person’s resilience in hard times. Positive emotions help both our bodies and our minds cope with stress, challenge, and negative feelings” (Is Happiness Actually Important?).

Research has found that people who are happy are found to be more successful than those who are unhappy. Christine Carter states, “They get better performance reviews, have more prestigious jobs, and earn higher salaries. They are more likely to get married, and once married, they are more satisfied with their marriages” (Is Happiness Actually Important?). Therefore, happiness is important because it improves the quality of life of people.

In relation to happiness, there is an important man who lived named Socrates. Socrates was born and lived nearly his entire life in Athens. His father Sophroniscus was a stonemason and his mother, Phaenarete, was a midwife. As a young man, Socrates showed an appetite for learning. Plato describes him eagerly acquiring the writings of the leading contemporary philosopher, Anaxagoras, and says he was taught rhetoric by Aspasia, the talented mistress of the great Athenian leader, Pericles. His family apparently had the moderate wealth required to launch Socrates’ career as a foot soldier. After becoming a soldier and participating in military campaigns, Socrates became a student to Plato. (Socrates). Socrates was more interested in the mind than the physical body. His greatest contributions include the Socratic irony and the Socratic method. Socrates was also known as the father of western philosophy. Happiness was a topic in which Socrates spoke about. According to Socrates, “happiness flows not from physical or external conditions, such as bodily pleasures or wealth and power, but from living a life that’s right for your soul, your deepest good” (On happiness- Socrates). If a human being does not know what’s good for their soul, then they will be fooled into pursuing happiness based on what is conventional like money or materialistic items. If he or she does know what is good for their soul, then they will do it naturally, since it is the nature of good to be desired. This is the path to happiness in Socrates mind. Important things that Socrates valued in order to be happy include, relationships, generosity, self-knowledge and career. (Socrates).

One of the most famous philosophers that studied the meaning of happiness is named Aristotle. Aristotle was born in 384 BC in Greece. Aristotle was sent to Athens to enroll at Plato’s academy at the age of seventeen where he spent a total of twenty years there as a student under another famous philosopher by the name of Socrates and later became a professor. Throughout his life, Aristotle made great contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. Aristotle died at the age of sixty two in 322 BC. His works and studies greatly influenced modern thoughts and ideas. Aristotle studied and discovered the four levels of happiness. The first level he mentioned was the “Laetus” which means happiness in Latin. In laetus is a short termed happiness that is usually derived from receiving a gift or enjoying a meal. Aristotle thought ,“as long as the person does not forget the other levels there is absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the pleasures of level 1” (Aristotle Believed There Are Four Levels Of Happiness That Humans Strive For). The second level is felix ego gratification which ultimately means happiness from comparing oneself to others or being better than others. This type of joy can be long termed or short termed. If this level of happiness is a constant everyday feeling, it can lead to self-absorption, jealousy, cynicism, and the oppression of others. The third level is the beatitudo. The happiness from doing good for others and making the world a better place.” The last level is the “Sublime Beatitudo” which according to Aristotle is the ultimate, perfect happiness. This level is the most difficult to acquire and describe because it is a fulfilling feeling.

In the next paragraphs, I will be writing about whether happiness has changed throughout the years. As previously states, Socrates believed that true happiness could not be attained by external conditions and the person will not know what truly makes them happy unless they know what is good for them. Socrates believed that generosity, relationships such as friends and family, career and self knowledge were important aspects to becoming happy. Keeping best friends close, a career in which involves challenging the mind, donating money while keeping others in mind and self examination are all ways to obtain happiness according to Socrates.

Finally, Aristotle’s view is quite similar as he believed that happiness from materials was not true happiness but a very short termed feeling of joy that is dangerous if one focuses too much on objects. Also, he gathers that happiness from comparing oneself to others or being too- self absorbed is not a good way to obtain happiness and can even lead to the point of someone feeling worthless. On the other hand, Aristotle also thinks that one can be happy from serving others by giving. Aristotle considers that happiness comes from giving because humans desire to connect with other people to form bonds and unite. The ultimate form of obtaining happiness in Aristotle’s opinion was by searching truth and perfection. Some examples of searching for truth include through religion, purpose and philosophy. Now that we understand the basics of how these two very important and famous philosophers viewed happiness, we can compare them to how today’s society view on happiness has changed. There was a study conducted in 1938 where a large group of people were asked to write down the answer to question, what is happiness and their responses were evaluated. Out of all the two hundred twenty six letters received, security, knowledge and religion were seen by participants as being the three most important characteristics of happiness. Another study was conducted in 2014 in order to compare the three major factors of happiness according to the people to the study from 1938. In the study of 2014, it was found that people still valued security as a contributor to happiness but instead of knowledge and religion, leisure and a good humour were the new top three answers to what is happiness? I believe nowadays many people associate money with happiness because money brings us stability, leisures, luxuries, entertainment and a sense of success but money and everything it comes with is not something that Socrates and Aristotle believed in. Yes, times have changed and so have people’s opinions and thoughts on what happiness really is. Therefore there are many aspects to the question of what the meaning of happiness is including science, history, the importance and philosophy but the question is still asked to this very day and will always be asked. What is happiness and has it changed?

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Materialism and Happiness. (2022, Apr 15). Retrieved from