Happiness is an expression of positive emotions such as intense joy and contentment due to a state of mental well-being. Material goods are commodities such as cars, houses, televisions as appliances that can be sold or purchased. It is important to note that material goods give the possessors non-spiritual pleasure. Many people have developed an interest in human happiness re-ignited by recent research on psychology, sociology, and economics.
It is worth acknowledging that the social well being of an individual plays an important role in ensuring happiness. According to the Ministry of Social Development, what is important to a person’s welfare and social well being is happiness without which an individual cannot enjoy the quality of life, economic and environmental functioning as well as other aspects found within the community (Bo 447).
The purpose of this paper is to examine whether material goods are essential for an individual’s happiness. To begin with, what determines an individual’s happiness is the freedom to choose between pain and pleasure. The matter of an individual’s happiness is of subjective preference and relies on hedonic calculus of pain and pleasure (Headey 214).
Therefore, even though the material gain is essential for meeting certain personal needs and for the development of an individual or a society, it does not determine the happiness of an individual. It is an individual’s choice and perception of issues that matter. For instance, Individuals who sell and purchase goods in a free market derive satisfaction from a marginal increase in utility and would feel better off (Thaler & Cass 156).
However, this feeling does not generally constitute to wellbeing. Research has it that income enhancements as well as receipt of goods and making purchases do not always predict happiness as even activities that derive less economic output such as spending time with family, eating, working and cooking would do so.
The question of what makes individuals happy was answered in a national survey conducted by Harris Interactive on more than 11000 Americans (Thaler & Cass 156). These individuals were asked what it was between material purchase and experiential investment that made them happier. Interestingly, most individuals from the survey derived happiness from experiential investments (Headey 214).
These experiences build relationships that are successful and add meaning that is deep and personal through its openness to reinterpretations to an individual’s life (Bo 447). Additionally, happiness does not rely on the material gain as those who pursue material gain for happiness are susceptible to mental disorders. Research has it that sustainable happiness is not pegged on materialistic gains (Thaler & Cass 156).
An individual becomes less happy when the focus in life’s goals becomes materialistic. On the other hand, those who focus on personal growth, relationships and other intrinsic aims live healthier and happy lives. Furthermore, happiness is an absolute concept and should not be equated with material gain. Feeling happy about life, among the rich or even the poor, does not depend on material gain (Bo 447).
In so far as unhappiness may be seen among the poor, it is important to note that it would be due to comparing themselves with the rich and not merely because of absolute deprivation. As individual gains, more materials, norms, aspirations, and expectations also increase, and in the end, it loses its positive effect (Headey 214).
To sum up, there are many other factors that are necessary for a society that would make an individual happy other than material gains. These include low inflation and employment, socioeconomic and political factors, personal and private matters as well as an opportunity to participate in a democratic process. Therefore, there is a good cause to believe that material gains do not guarantee happiness.
Bo, Rothstein. Happiness and the Welfare State. Social Research. 77.2 (2010): 441- 469. ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 19 May. 2011
Headey, Brown. “Life Goals Matter to Happiness: A Revision of Set-Point Theory.” Social Indicators Research. 86.2 (2008): 213-231. ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 19 May. 2011.
Thaler, Richard & Sunstein, Cass. Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Journal of Pension Economics & Finance 9.1 (2010): 156- 157. ABI/INFORM Global, ProQuest. Web. 19 May. 2011.