“Nothing is worse than a rich girl who feels sorry for herself”. So why is it, that the rich don’t seem to be much happier than the rest of us? Why do we all think that money can’t buy happiness, but pursue it almost blindly, hoping that it will at least rent some joy?
All around us, we see examples of extremely successful people, like actors and athletes, who have made it really big, and yet do not seem to be very content with what they have.
If money can’t buy happiness, then what can?
The brief answer is, financial success can only buy financial toys. Money can buy a lot of useful things: toys, time, freedom. But it can’t buy the affection of those we love. And most of the stuff it buys disappoints us in the end.
Some money is absolutely essential. When you’re poor and worried about your next meal, or how to buy something essential, you can’t be happy. Once you reach a certain level of financial achievement, you can be free from those money demons: at least your basic needs are met.
But more money does not equal more happiness. We always want something more than what we have. When we try to spend our way into happiness, we are never happy because:
- We want something more, or something better, and
- What we just bought doesn’t seem to live up to the grand expectations we had of it.
The things that bring us most happiness are our friends and family.
A significant number of close friends means that you have people to share your ups and downs with (and you get to go to, and throw, a lot of parties 😉 )
A happy relationship with your spouse is incredibly important for overall happiness.
Children make us happier in the long run: despite what many studies say, anyone will tell you that their children are their greatest joy.
Thankful people are happier. I understand this first-hand, because I started keeping a thankfulness journal once, and I could feel my spirits lift immediately. Thankful people appreciate the wonderful life that they are enjoying.
Your experiences are what make you happy.
Till that end, money can actually make you happier. Money spent on enjoyable experiences (travel, an easier or non-existent commute, a brighter living area) is money well spent.
Unlike “stuff”, you enjoy experiences both during the actual occurrence, and in the memories that persist. In fact, your memories often tend to magnify the past, so that the happy parts are exaggerated and the more negative parts overlooked. That’s why pictures of your last vacation usually evoke such powerful feelings.
Money spent on experiences which are challenging, is money especially well-spent, since most of us are glad to be able to rise to a challenge. Learning to play tennis, for instance, is a great way to spend money because of they joy you get when tackling those difficult moves.
I’m pretty sure that I’ll blog on happiness in greater detail, because it’s difficult to deal with the topic in one single post.
It’s tough to break happiness down into each component part, but I think it ultimately boils down to two things: your relationships, and your experiences.
Update: My first post on the happiness series is up here.