Money Can Buy Happiness
What? How can that be true when we have heard the opposite for so long? Well, it’s like so many things in life – it all depends. Research in this area is plentiful and here are the surprising and interesting results scientists have found. If we have unmet basic needs (such as food, shelter, and healthcare) because of our level of income, more money to take care of those needs will provide us with more happiness (and less worry). However, if our income is already above this threshold, then more money may bring a little more happiness, but probably not as much as we think. Why? Because we are an extremely adaptable species and we quickly get used to our new conditions. For example, I remember early in my career I received a pay increase that was more than I expected (they called it a correction), and I was thrilled! I started thinking about all the things I could do with the extra money. Within a few months, I had forgotten about the increase and had easily “adjusted” my spending to accommodate the increase without thinking about it again.
Our adaptable nature also short-changes us on our enjoyment of shopping. If we spend money on “new stuff,” we will likely feel some immediate pleasure and enjoy our new car, TV, shoes, etc. for awhile, but then it wears off. Studies have found that to get a bigger happiness bang for our buck, we are better off spending that same money on experiences, especially experiences we share with others. We will also get a bigger happiness payback if we spend money on others instead of ourselves. So the next time you find yourself buying something you don’t need (but think you want), ask yourself if doing something fun with friends or family would be a better happiness investment.
Tina Hallis, Ph.D., is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping people and organizations fulfill their true potential using strategies from the science of Positive Psychology.