Have you ever caught yourself thinking “I just need ____ and then my life will be so much better“?
If so, you definitely aren’t alone—but the hard truth is if you don’t know how to be happy with what you have, then it’s unlikely that anything you can buy will make you any happier.
Of course, you need the basics like food, shelter, etc. but science has shown that after $75,000 a year (in the US) money doesn’t make us any happier.
And even if your household’s income is below that threshold, odds are that buying a new sweater or another dinnerware set isn’t going to bring you much long-term joy. Instead, buying stuff you don’t really need will only lead to less money and more stress overall.
I know this probably isn’t news to you—deep down I’m sure you already know that a new purchase isn’t really going to make you happy. The problem is how to overcome this belief in the present moment when you’re overwhelmed with the urge for something new.
How can you stop wanting more and genuinely feel happy with what you already have?
I struggled with this for years and it’s what kept me stuck when I first started exploring a minimalist lifestyle. My brain knew that I didn’t need anything else but I still couldn’t shake the feeling of constantly wanting more.
Fortunately, I was eventually able to overcome this hurdle and I’ve been living as a minimalist for nearly a decade now. Here’s what I’ve learned about being happy with what you have and how to genuinely stop wanting more.
Note: I wrote this post specifically about being satisfied with your physical “stuff” — but to be honest, most of this advice easily applies to any area of life where you feel like you need “more” to be happy.
“I Don’t Know Why I Want More”
The first step to wanting less and being happy with what you have is to understand where these urges come from.
There are usually some common threads—feelings of insecurity, a struggle with comparisons, and deeply held beliefs about success—but ultimately, you need to understand what makes YOU tick.
The way to do this is by paying attention to your urges.
Don’t judge yourself—instead, be curious. What happened right before you began wanting more?
- Was it a shop display or an advertisement?
- Was it something you saw on social media?
- Was it a conversation with a friend?
Also, what were you feeling? Happy, sad, anxious, nervous, afraid?
Again, don’t judge your feelings as good or bad. Instead, just pay attention and ideally, record your observations somewhere.
Also, whether you act on your urge or not, take note of how you feel afterwards. If you bought something new, did it feel good? (And if so, how long did that good feeling last?) And if it didn’t make you feel good, how did it make you feel?
Alternatively, if you didn’t buy anything new take notes about those feelings. Did the urge eventually go away? If so, how long did it take?
Trying doing this for a few weeks and see what you discover.
Rewrite The Stories You Tell Yourself
Once you’ve spent a few weeks observing yourself and your urges, the next step is to look at the stories you tell yourself.
What do you believe will happen when you buy something new?
This isn’t always immediately obvious, which is why I recommend recording your feelings for a few weeks. However, once you start to see your stories, it’s hard to unsee them!
For example, here are a few of the stories I used to tell myself:
- You’re not very pretty but if you dress in the latest fashion, people won’t notice.
- You’re not very successful but if you keep buying new things, people will think you are.
- Buying new things is a great way of taking care of myself when I’ve hard a hard day.
I know these stories aren’t true but at the time, I let myself believe them. Even though they weren’t necessarily kind, they felt comfortable—like a well-worn blanket—because I’d been telling them for so long.
However, I knew that if I wanted to change then I had to challenge my stories and you do too. Which of your own stories fuel your constant need for more and how can you consciously begin re-writing these stories?
How can you disprove these stories? And what stories should you be telling instead? This is an opportunity for you to rewrite your life on your terms so choose wisely.
Tip: Once you’ve re-written your stories, repeat them until you believe in them. Jouraling is a great tool to help you create this new belief.
Practice Gratitude Regularly
If you want to feel happy with what you have, then another tip is to practice gratitude regularly. The simplest way to do this is by writing a daily gratitude list and there are a few options:
If you feel the urge to buy something new, try feeling gratitude specifically for similar items that you already have. For example, if you want to buy new shoes, write a list of reasons why you’re grateful for your current shoe collection.
Alternatively, you could practice gratitude for things you don’t have. Write them down and be specific about why you’re grateful (keeping in mind the true cost of any new purchase—time, money, space and energy!).
Try using this prompt: “I’m grateful I didn’t buy ____ because it would have meant giving up ____.”
This will help you reframe your decision not to buy as a positive choice instead of a negative. You’re not “giving up” on something new; instead, you are choosing to have more of what really matters to you.
Normalise Living With Less
Have you ever noticed that what you consider to be “normal” can change with time?
A common example of this is lifestyle creep—as your income increases, previous luxuries become necessities. You get used to having more and more until you can’t remember how it used to feel to have less.
This is definitely one reason why you might struggle to feel satisfied with what you have but the good news is you can reverse lifestyle creep.
If you gradually start buying less and less new things, this will eventually become your new normal. In fact, as a reformed shopaholic, I can absolutely confirm that eventually wanting more will start to feel strange! You can definitely normalise living with less.
In addition, it’s also worth mentioning that our beliefs about what’s “normal” are undoubtedly shaped by what we see around us: what our friends and family believe, as well as what we see on TV, in magazines or on social media.
You can use this to your advantage. If you want to be happy with what you have, try surrounding yourself with people who are happy with what they have. There’s a good chance it might rub off on you.
Resist Instant Gratification
Another thing that’s important to mention is that learning to want less is in a sense, learning a new skill (especially in the early days).
Eventually, once you’ve re-written your story, started practising gratitude, and surrounded yourself with like-minded thinkers, you’ll naturally start wanting less.
BUT until that kicks in, you’re going to need to learn how to resist instant gratification—and admittedly, this will be hard at first. Most of us are very used to getting what we want and when we want it.
Think about it—twenty years ago, if you wanted something new, you had to want it enough to get dressed, drive across town, go into a shop, find your item, and then stand in line for a cashier.
This meant there was time and physical distance between yourself and your desired item. Sometimes this space was enough for you to recognise your urge for what it was—often a reaction to some sort of trigger—and you’d decide not to follow through with your purchase.
Today on the other hand, if you feel the urge for something new, you can be on your phone and buy it within minutes. There’s no space to think through your actions. Instead, it’s like a twitch and you can easily spend hundreds of dollars without even realising it.
Resisting this twitch is going to take practice and repetition, so start small. Next time you feel an urge—even for something small like a takeaway coffee—try resisting.
It probably won’t feel great but if you keep it up, you’ll build up your resistance and you’ll get better at saying “no” when it really matters.
Remind Yourself What Matters Most
Finally, one of the keys to feeling happy with what you have and not wanting more is to remind yourself what matters most.
- What are your values and priorities?
- What are your big dreams?
- What makes you feel alive?
Focus on the answer to these questions next time you’re struggling with the urge for “more” and see how it changes your perspective. You might find that the latest handbag—or even a promotion at work—don’t matter as much as you think it does.
If you need any help clarifying what matters (or perhaps, more importantly, making these things a priority in your life) then to be sure to check out my signature course Values + Vision and learn how to align your life with what matters most.
Don’t just think about the things that matter most—make sure you do more of what matters too. Remember, sometimes it’s the little joys in life like a hot cup of coffee, a good book, or a long hug that make it all worthwhile!
More Resources to Help You Feel Happy With What You Have
The following resources will help you find more joy and ease in your life—exactly where you are right now.
- 15 Simple Ways to Make Life Easier — Are you looking for ways to make life easier? Here are 15 simple ideas that will help you find more ease and joy every day.
- How to Turn Around a Bad Day — Bad days are inevitable but how we react is up to us. We can choose to give in to the negative voices in our heads or we can take steps to turn things around.
- 10 Ways To Slow Down a Busy Day — Sometimes life feels out of control, time gets away from me, and I feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. When this happens, these simple acts help me shift gears so I can feel calm and more at ease in my everyday life.
- 5 Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself — There are, of course, countless ways to be kinder to yourself; these are simply a few that have been particularly powerful. What’s really important is self-compassion: withholding judgement, accepting ourselves as imperfect, and being mindful of our expectations.
- 4 Ways to Stop Letting Little Things Bother You — Do you ever have one of those days when life’s little annoyances get to you more than they should. If so, here are four ways to stop letting the little things bother you.
What are your top tips for wanting less and being content with what you have? Or is this is hard for you, what’s your biggest struggle? Let me know in the comments! x