Does money really equal happiness? Most who ponder that question will always respond with a resounding Yes. Anyone who rattles around in the lower spectrum of the yearly income bracket dream of reaching the next level for an opportunity to stop living check to check. Those who enjoy a middle income with a little left over at the end of the month, look for ways to stretch the budget for that all important family vacation or a perfect shopping experience. The upper income level, the one we all aspire to, enjoy the kind of money that pays all of the bills, can support any shopping spree or exotic get away with loads of money left over. No worries, no care in the world. A life of ease. After all, don’t we all deserve to be rolling in money? Our happiness is relative to how much money we have; or is it?
A new San Francisco University study out says money can contribute to your happiness. It’s not what you can buy that makes you happy, it’s what you get out of it that gives you satisfaction. Your happiness will in turn spread to others around if you have a shared experience with someone else.
A San Francisco University assistant professor of psychology, Ryan Howell asked 154 students to answer a questioner about purchases they had made over the last three months. He asked if the purchases they made had made them happy. Most of them said it had, but those who also had real experiences while making their purchases turned out to be happier. What he found was the students who shared their shopping and purchases with a friend or family member enjoyed the experience of shopping more than those who shopped alone. In other words, it wasn’t the purchase alone that contributed to their happiness. It was a shared experience that gave them more happiness then the act of buying. We are usually satisfied with a purchase for up to three months before the happiness obtained when buying the item begins to wear off. Try to remember what you bought a month ago. Were you alone or with someone? Did you feel happier with someone at your side? Howell found your experience will make you happier than what you bought.
Actually, you don’t need to buy anything to achieve happiness. Shared experiences will still increase your happiness without spending a cent. It’s believed our need for social bonding, laughing at the silly hat your friend tried on or a clear sky on a warm summer day shared with someone else will increase your happiness.
Possessing fancy cars, furniture, boats, everything we poor folk equate to the rich will not provide lasting happiness. However, spending a wad on a vacation in Hawaii or somewhere exotic with the one you love will give you happiness to last a lifetime. Being able to share life events create great memories that won’t fade in two or three months. Money can’t make you feel alive. It can only buy you stuff. Money therefore is a means to your happiness only because it can provide a catalyst to a satisfying moment that can add to your happiness.
If you had $3,000 and could spend it on anything you wanted, what would it be? If you want to get the most out of the money and increase your happiness, spend it with someone special, a night out dining and dancing, a trip to the Grand Canyon or any vacation point in America or share a shopping spree at the mall. Giving and receiving is also a shared experience. Often times, gifts become sentimental and will increase happiness for the giver and the receiver.
Another researcher from the psychology department at Cornell University, Thomas Gilovich, professor and chairman of the department, has similar findings and says cities could take advantage of their findings by building more hiking and bike trails to allow more opportunities for people to enjoy shared experiences to increase happiness in our cities and towns.
Maybe we as a society have it all wrong and what we should strive for is more experiences with the ones we love and stop worrying so much about the money we may or may not have. After all, isn’t happiness more important than wheelbarrows full of money in the long run?
Elizabeth Landau, Study: Experiences Make Us Happier Than Possessions, CNNhealth.com
Renee M. Grinnell, Money = Happiness, But There’s A Catch, PhychCentral