According to research for the Guardian in 2015, money is the greatest source of anxiety for Britons.
But we’ve been told all our our lives that money won’t buy you happiness. They can’t both be right, so whats the coup? does more cash make us happier????
The answer; Yes. To a point.
As people become wealthier they tend to become happier-to begin with at least. Known as the ‘Easterlin paradox’, once our basic needs are met, an increase wealth has very little effect on our level of happiness.
As you can imagine, this theory has been met with some criticism.
Ultimately, it appears that the way we spend money, rather than how much of it we earn has more of an impact on our wellbeing.
We’ve all been guilty of day dreaming about spending millions following a windfall; fast cars, huge mansions and private jets come to mind when we spend the money in our heads. The problem is that humans are remarkably effective at hedonic adaptation. In other words, your new Lambo may make you feel good for a short period, but you will always return to your previous level of happiness.
So if material goods don’t appear to make us happy, how should we spend out money?
Dr Thomas Gilovich (A professor from Cornell university, and a thought leader on the science of happiness) suggests that we spend our money on experiences rather than material goods.
Why? Along with other experts he found that over time people’s satisfaction with the ‘things’ they bought went down, but their satisfaction with experiences went up.
It appears then, that by investing more in new experiences they literally become a part of who you are.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” said Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
This is by no means a dig a those that enjoy the finer things in life, and I’m not suggesting you quit your job and travel the world. But if it really has that much of an effect on your happiness, shouldn’t we all be jumping out of planes at the weekend?
Interestingly, there are also strong links with giving to others and happiness. Spending money on others does indeed increase our own happiness, therefore more of it should make us happier shouldn’t it? I will explore this in tomorrows post on altruism.
With so much economic uncertainty in our lives, this is whole topic is a tough one to balance. I think the best bet here is to carve out some time in your schedule to make sure you are experiencing new things on a regular basis. It’s pretty easy after all to get stuck in a cycle of work, being a taxi for the kids and paying your bills.
Ask yourself this. What have you completed on your bucket list in the last 12 months? If it’s nothing, things need to change.
At some point this week book an experience to do something new. Something outside your comfort zone. We often think about all of the things we would like to stick on our bucket list but rarely carve out the time to go through with it.
Make the time to do this, you deserve it.
So get out there and jump out of a plane already.
P.s If you’ve got a spare 20 minutes, I would highly recommend watching this TED talk by Dan Gilbert ‘The surprising Science of Happiness’. His fascinating study on lottery winners and paraplegics demonstrates the power of a phenomenon he calls ‘Impact bias’. He found that in most cases it seems that we return to our base level of happiness even after we attain huge levels of wealth or suffer unthinkable tragedy. Hard to fathom I know. Check it out 🙂