We love buying and gifting stuff during the holiday season. The average American spends nearly $1,500 on the holidays, and a lot of that money goes towards giving our loved ones more things. Despite concerns over inflation or economic uncertainty, consumers are expected to spend above the five-year average for gift spending.
Holiday retail sales in November and December 2022 are set to grow 6% to 8% over 2021’s record-setting $889.3 billion. Over the past ten tears, holiday sales have averaged a yearly increase of 4.9%. We love buying stuff; even a little inflation and a global pandemic can’t slow us down.
But is all the stuff we acquire during the holidays, or at any other point in the year, making us any happier? Or has the materialism that has become such a staple part of our society become one of the reasons why so many Americans are struggling with their mental health?
Acquiring too much stuff has long been shown to have a negative impact on stress and mood levels. According to a 2010 Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology study, dual-income married couples who perceived themselves as having a cluttered home tended to have increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol. More gifts, more clutter, more stress.
The constant gift-giving and desire to acquire things have made many Americans more materialistic than ever before. Some of the coolest gifts and gadgets we love in the U.S. are always getting updated. As soon as you have the newest iPhone, a new one comes out. It can be a vicious cycle of always wanting the latest and greatest.
The problem with this shift towards materialism is that studies have shown that materialistic people are more likely to be depressed and unsatisfied. And the worst part is that many of us are conditioned to develop this deep desire to get the newest thing from a very young age. Gift-giving during the holidays is strongly marketed toward parents and kids.
Minimalism means eliminating clutter and only keeping things that truly make you happy
How do you not gift your child the latest Nintendo after they’ve been bashed over the head with constant ads about how great it is? And when the newer version comes out in a year, how do you not get them that one? Next thing you know, you have a teenager that can’t go a day without having the latest iPhone once it releases. Getting stuck with last year’s ‘anything’ is utterly untenable for many millennials and Gen Z’ers, and it is no wonder we got here.
Luckily, some momentum is growing behind minimalism as an antidote to the clutter and materialism stressing many of us out. Marie Kondo became an overnight household name by popularizing the practice of getting rid of all the unnecessary stuff we own and keeping only the necessities plus the few things that truly bring us joy. Minimalism has now been linked to psychological well-being in various studies.
The key takeaway? The holidays should be about more than just the gifts you buy and the things you acquire. For some people, receiving gifts can be something they genuinely appreciate, but does everyone on your holiday list really need a new knife set or another set of pajamas? And most importantly, do our kids need to always have the latest and greatest gadget that will only get them to spend more time in front of a screen?
There can be more creative ways to spend the holidays together than just by opening gifts. It might be too late this year, but plan a big trip or organize an act of community service as a family. Changing things up around this time of the year can significantly impact everyone’s mental health, both in the short and long term.
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