Some argue that happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have. This maxim sounds reasonable enough, but can it be tested, and if so, is it true?
It turns out it can be tested. Texas Tech University psychologist Jeff Larsen and Amie McKibban of Wichita State University asked undergraduates to indicate whether they possessed 52 different material items, such as a car, a stereo or a bed.
Their results, which appear in the April issue of the Association for Psychological Science’s journal, Psychological Science, suggest that people can grow accustomed to their possessions and thereby derive less happiness from them.
They also suggest, however, that people can continue to want the things they have and that those who do so can achieve greater happiness.
“Simply having a bunch of things is not the key to happiness,” Larsen said. “Our data show that you also need to appreciate those things you have. It’s also important to keep your desire for things you don’t own in check.”
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