Whoever said money can’t buy you happiness has no idea how to spend his or her money. The question is how can you transform the money you work so hard for into something approaching the good life. We all know that there must be some connection between happiness and money. I mean my God if it wasn’t, we would all be a whole bunch less likely to stay late at work or even work at all, or struggle to save money and invest it profitably. But then, why o why aren’t your big time lucrative promotion, that six-bedroom house and the fat 401(k) making you super happy. The relationship between money and happiness, is much more complicated than you can ever imagine.
Fortunately, you don’t have to do untangling yourself. Over the past quarter century, economists and psychologists have banded together to sort out the big shows, and all of the why’s and why-nots of money and mood. Especially the big time why-nots. Why is it that the more money we have, the more we want? Why doesn’t buying that new car, or new home or going to the places of your dreams bring you more than momentary joy? In attempting to answer these seemingly depressing questions, the new scholars of happiness have arrived at some real insights that are, will, downright outstanding.
Money can help us find more happiness, so long as we know just what we can and can’t expect from it. And absolutely no, we don’t have to buy a Maserati to be happy, ( I know I own one and happiness was only short-term). Much of the research suggests that seeking the good life at a store is an expensive exercise in futility. Before you can pursue true happiness the right way, you need to recognize what you have been doing wrong.
The new science of Happiness starts with a simple insight, we are absolutely never satisfied. We always think if we just had a little bit more money, we will be happy. However, when we actually get there well, we are not. Indeed, the more you make, the more you want. The more you have, the less effective it is at bringing you that joy, and that seeming paradox has long bedeviled economists.
Once you have the basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness, notes Dan Gilbert, who is a psychology professor at Harvard University and the author of Stumbling on Happiness. Some of the research shows that going from earning only $20,000 a year to making over $50,000 makes you twice as likely to be happy, yet the payoff for that surpassing $90,000 is slight. And while the very rich are happier than the poor, the enormous rise in living standards has not made Americans happier.
Why? There are three reasons, we overestimate how much pleasure we will have, from having more. Humans are adaptable creatures, which has been a plus during assorted ice age, wars and plagues. But that’s also why we are never all that satisfied for long when some good fortune comes our way. While earning more makes us happy in the short term, we very quickly adjust to our new wealth, and everything that it can buy us. Yes, we can get a thrill in the beginning from buying a shiny new car and a TV screen the size of Picasso’s Guernica. But we soon get used to them, a state of running in place that economists call the “hedonic treadmill” or “hedonic adaptation.”
Even though stuff seldom brings you the big-time satisfaction, that you expect, you keep returning to the mall and the car dealership in search of more and more. “When you imagine how much you are going to enjoy a Porsche, what you’re imagining is the very day that you get it,” says Gilbert. When your new car loses the ability to make your heart go Bam Bam Bam, you tend to draw the wrong conclusions. Instead of questioning the notion that you can buy happiness on that car lot, you begin to question your choice of car. So you pin your hopes on a BMW, to only be disappointed again.
Am I getting through to you, more money can also lead us to more stress. The big salary you pull in from your high paying job or business, may not buy you much in a way of happiness. However, it can buy you an outstanding house in the suburbs. The trouble is that, it also means a long trip to and from work, and study after study confirms what you sense on a daily basis: even if you love your job, the Little slice of everyday Hell that you call the commute can wear you down. You can adjust to anything, however, a stop and go drive or an overstuffed subway car will make you very unhappy whether if it is the first day on the job or your last day.
We endlessly compare ourselves with the family next door, H.L. Mencken once quipped that the happy man is one who earns $100 more than his wife’s sister’s husband Will, he was right. The happiness scholars have found that how we stand relative to other, makes a much bigger difference in our sense of wellbeing than how much we make in an absolute sense.
We may feel a touch of envy when we read about the glamorous lives of the absurdly wealthy, but the group that we likely compare ourselves with are folks that economist Erzo Luttmer calls similar others, the people that we work with, or the people that we grew up with, old classmates and old friends. Matching census data on earning with the data on self-reported happiness from a national survey, Luttmer found that such enough, our happiness can depend a great deal on our friends and neighbors paychecks. If compare two people with the same amount of income, with one living in a richer area than the other, Luttmer said, the person in the richer area reports being less happy.
Your penchant for comparing yourself with the people next door, like your tendency to grow bored with the things that you acquire, seems to be a deeply rooted human trait. An inability to just stay satisfied is arguably one of the key reasons prehistoric man moved out of his old drafty cave and began building the civilization that we now inhabit. But my friends, we’re not living in a cave, and we are not likely to have any worry about more survival. Yes, we can afford to step off the hedonic treadmill. However, the question is, how do we do this.
If we really want to know how to use the money we have to become happier, we need to understand just what it is that brings us happiness in the first place. And that my dear friends is where the newest happiness research comes in. Family and friends are a mighty elixir. One secret of happiness? People. Innumerable studies suggest that having friends matters a great deal. Large scale surveys that was done by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC), for example, have found that those with five or more close friends are 50% more likely to describe themselves as being very happy, than others with smaller social networks. Compared with the happiness increasing powers of our human connection, the power of money looks feeble indeed.
So let’s throw a party, set up regular lunch dates, whatever it may take to invest in our friendships. Even more important, to your happiness is your relationship with your significant other. People who are in happy committed and stable relationships tend to be far more happy than those who are not. Among those surveyed by NORC from the 1970s through the 1990s, some 40% of all married people said that they were very happy, among the ones that were never married, only around a quarter were quite so exuberant.
However, there is a very good reason to choose wisely. Divorce usually brings nothing but misery to everyone who is involved. Though those who stick it out, in a totally off-the-wall terrible marriage are the unhappiest of them all. While a healthy marriage is a clear happiness booster, and the kids who tend to follow are more of a mixed blessing. The studies of kids and happiness have come up with little more than a mess of conflicting data.
When you take moment by moment readouts of how people feel when they’re taking care of the kids, they actually are not very happy, notes Cornell University psychologist Tom Gilovich. But if you ask them, they will say that having children is one of the most enjoyable things that they do with their lives. Doing things can bring us more joy than having material things. Our preoccupation with stuff obscures an very important truth: the things that will not last create the most lasting happiness.
That’s what Gilovich and Leaf Van Boven of the University of Colorado have found when they asked students to compare the pleasure that they got from the most recent things they brought with the experiences they spent money on. One of the reasons may be that experiences tend to blossom as you recall them, not diminish. In our memory we’re free to embellish and elaborate, Gilovich says.
Your trip to the Caribbean may have been an endless wall of big hassles punctuated by a few exquisite moments. But as you look back on it, your brain can edit out the surly cab drivers remembering only the glorious sunsets and the nightlife. So the next time you think that arranging a vacation is more trouble than it’s worth, or a cost you rather not shoulder factor in the delayed impact. Of course, a lot of what you spend money on could be considered a thing, an experience or a bit of both
A book that is unreal on a bookshelf is a thing; a book that you plunge into with gusto, savoring every plot twist, is an experience. However, people define what is and what isn’t an experience differently, maybe that’s the key. Gilovich suspects that the individuals who are happiest are those who are best at wringing experiences out of everything they spend money on, whether it’s a gym membership or dance lessons.
Applying yourself to something hard makes you happy. We’re all addicted to challenges, and we’re often far happier while working to ward a goal than after we reach it. Challenges help us to attain what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of flow: totally absorption in something that will stretched us to the limits of our abilities, physical or mental.
After all, you have to learn to play scales on a guitar before you can lose yourself in a Jimi Hendrix solo. But the satisfaction you get in the end is greater than what you can receive out of most passive pursuits. When people are asked what makes them happy on a moment-to-moment basis, watching television ranks awful High however, people who watch a lot of television tend to be less happier than those who do not. Sitting down on your favorite coach with the remote can help you recharge but to be truly happy my friends you will need more in your life then passive pleasures. you need to find some activities that helps you didn’t choose the state of flow you can sign flow at work if you had a job that’s interesting and challenging and that gives you control over your day assignments. One study by two University of British Columbia researchers suggests that workers would be happy to forgo as much as a 20% raise if it meant having a job with more variety.
Not very long ago, more researchers thought that you had a happiness set point that you were largely stuck with for life. One famous paper stated that trying to be happy, may be as futile as one trying to be taller. The author of those words has since recanted, and the experts are increasingly coming to view happiness as a talent, not an inborn trait at all. Exceptionally happy people seem to have a set of skills, ones that we can learn.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, who is a psychology professor at the University of California, has found that happy people don’t waste their time dwelling on unpleasant things. They tend to interpret ambiguous events in positive ways. And perhaps more tellingly, they are not bothered by any successes of others. Lyubomirsky says that when she asked less happy people whom they compare themselves with, they went on and on. However, the happy people didn’t know what we were talking about. They dare not to compare thus short-circuiting Invidious social comparison.
That’s not the only way to get ourselves to spend less and appreciate what we have more. Try counting your blessings, for real. In a series of studies, psychologists Robert Emmons of the University of California, and Michael McCullough of the University of Miami found that those who did exercise to cultivate some feelings of gratitude, such as keeping a weekly journal, ended up feeling, yes, happier, healthier, more energetic and more optimistic than those who did not.
And if you can’t change how you think, you can at least learn how to resist. The act of shopping unleashes primal hunter-gatherer urges. When we’re in that hot state, we tend to be an extremely poor judges of what we think of a product when we cool down later. Before giving into your lush, always give yourself a time-out. Ok my friends, over the next couple months, keep track of how many times that you tell yourself: I wish I had a camera! If in the course of your life you almost never find yourself wanting a camera, forget about it and move on, and be happier and happier.
May good health and prosperity be always with you.
Humbly yours Paul Earl.