Doing the Holidays Differently: Materialism vs. Your Mental Health

As the holiday season approaches, shopping malls have already extended their hours and the expected flood of gift buying is in full swing. While the practice of giving and receiving gifts can hold the obvious merit of thoughtfulness and generosity, there are also negative implications which deserve attention.

It has become well documented that consumerism and materialism are associated with increased levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. There is no debate over the human need for connection and purpose to find meaning in life, and the reality that material objects do not have the capacity to meet these needs is well understood. It is also well understood that these needs are met by spending time with loved ones, spending time in nature, engaging in one’s community, finding work that one enjoys, and engaging in pleasurable activities or hobbies (which don’t include shopping).

When we subscribe to a culture focused on consumerism and materialism, we run the risk of not spending enough time focused on the things that meet our innate needs, leaving us feeling more stressed, anxious, or unhappy. There is incredible societal pressure to subscribe to this culture of materialism, especially at this time of year, and while it may seem unavoidable, you really do have a choice to practice the holidays differently!

Here are a few ideas to try to incorporate into your holiday traditions as alternatives to conventional materialistic gift giving:

  • Give an experience: concert tickets, a weekend getaway, day at a spa, cooking class, make someone their favourite dinner
  • DIY gifts: plan a day to make homemade cards or gifts—this is especially great to do with kids
  • Give to charity: give a donation in someone’s name to an organization with a mandate meaningful to them
  • Establish new traditions: organize new events or customs with family or friends to implement yearly (evening to play cards or board games, dinner at a favourite restaurant or special dinner at home, outdoor activity like hiking or skiing, movie marathon)
  • Volunteer: at a local shelter or food bank—this is another activity great for kids and the rewards you experience after will be far greater than any material gift

It can be overwhelming to change our habits, which is why it’s often best to start small, focusing on one thing at a time and giving ourselves lots of space and time to make change!


Dr. Danielle DeBlock, ND is the newest member of the Sage Team!  To learn more about her, or to book an appointment, click here

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