13 June, 2015

Happiness is not more money

Money cannot buy happiness. Some say it’s a “wisdom” carefully invented by the poor as in the Fox and the grapes fable. Some believe the idea is supported by research. For most, it does not matter. Most have unconsciously subscribed to a law that bluntly states ‘ I need (more) money to be happy’. The law does not state what more quantifies. ‘ But you know, I need more to buy a house, the car that I’ve always wanted…’. And most never inspected what they really need and want. What they think they need and want is a list of socially conditioned desires. Let’s ask our selves really basic questions about money.

Is money necessary for happiness? The question can be grappled in several different ways. One way of thinking suggests that you need to have the bare minimum to meet your daily needs. Hence, money is a pre-requisite of happiness. If you do not have enough to meet your basic needs, you’d be simply in pursuit of those basic needs, and simple in pursuit of happiness (or happyness). Because basic necessities themselves are fairly variant, I opine, it’s hard to define happiness in terms of that. Children from rich families might see iPad as a source of happiness, but children living in slums would be happier with flowing water and makeshift swings. Epictetus said, “Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants." Perhaps for this reason, children living in Indian slums seem to have a very happy life-style, perhaps even happier than iPad generation in the first world countries (Metro, 2011).

So, if money is not necessary for happiness, can you be poor and still be happy? If you can find a single example of a poor person being happy defies the rule that says ‘you need money in order to be happy’ and at the same time proves ‘you can have less money than you need and still be happy’.

Does more money translate to happiness? The simple answer is No. Research conducted in the United States shows when you start making $75,000 annually, which is enough to handle life’s necessities, having more money on top will not make you happier (Time, 2010). Why is it so? Daniel Goleman, author of the well-renowned book emotional intelligence quotes Dalai Lama ““Many people feel money is the source of a happy life. Money is necessary, useful—but more and more money does not bring happiness.” Money in it-self is not a source of happiness. Malcolm Gladwell says “If your family makes seventy-five thousand and your neighbour makes a hundred thousand, that extra twenty-five thousand a year means that your neighbour can drive a nicer car and go out to eat slightly more often. But it doesn’t make your neighbour happier than you, or better equipped to do the thousands of small and large things that make for being a good parent”(Gladwell, 2013).
Can money buy happiness? Richard Davidson the owner of the Centre for Investigating Healthy minds believes happiness is a skill that can be learned (Huffpost, 2014). Because of this, David Goleman believes “ Happiness has nothing to do with Money” (Goleman, 2015). Some researchers claim that money can buy happiness if it spent on experiences rather than buying a product. Some other researchers have shown how money spent on others can bring happiness. There have been hundreds of research on this topic and they all present some interesting findings, most of which contradict what we normally assume to be the case.
Some people question the authenticity of such research because ‘being happy’ and ‘saying happy’ might be different. Of course there’s no standard way of measuring happiness like there’s no standard way of defining it. I like the definition, which says
“ [Happiness is] the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile” (Lyubomirsky, 2007)
I like this all-embracing definition of happiness, because, if you define happiness in a constricted (short-termed) way then you have to define something else beyond it. Like, Jane Austen said “There’s more to life than happiness”

To conclude, what I understand from the immense research on topic of happiness is – ‘enough money’ is more likely to make you happy but ‘more money’ has no direct correlation with happiness and money is not a pre-requisite for happiness.

Originally posted on exploringpsyche.com 

[1] Time (2010), Do We Need $75,000 a Year to Be Happy? http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2019628,00.html

[2] Metro (2011), Children in Indian slums live happier lives than Britain’s iPad generation http://metro.co.uk/2011/11/10/children-in-indian-slums-live-happier-lives-than-britains-ipad-generation-215285

[3] Goleman, D. (2015), The Real Reason why happiness has nothing to do with money http://www.danielgoleman.info/daniel-goleman-the-real-reasons-happiness-has-nothing-to-do-with-money/

[5] Huffington Post (2014), Richard J. Davidson: 'Happiness Is A Skill That Can Be Learned' http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/23/richard-j-davidson-davos_n_4636683.html

[6] Lyubomirsky, S. (2007), The How of Happiness http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-How-Of-Happiness-Practical/dp/0749952466



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