There is a popular belief that the things that bring us happiness aren’t for sale. Songs have been sung about this, poetry written, and while it’s a lovely sentiment, it is wrong. Money allows us to buffer ourselves against daily worries and gives us more leisure time. It also allows us to control the nature of our daily activities and for us to have more meaningful work. Scientists have found that each of these is a necessary ingredient in the recipe for a happy life.
Yet researchers have also found that wealthy people aren’t that much happier than the not-so-wealthy. Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues Elizabeth Dunn and Timothy Wilson write in a paper titled “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy, Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right”, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology in March 2011, that the reason the correlation between happiness and money is modest at best is because people don’t know the basic scientific facts about happiness. Prof. Gilbert and colleagues have compiled principles on happiness that will help you spend your money in a way that enhances your emotional health. The paper compiled eight principles that are based on more than 80 studies in consumer psychology by Prof. Gilbert, Dunn, Wilson and many other researchers. Of those eight principles, five are presented here.
u Happiness often comes from spending money on experiences
Research shows that people are often happier when they spend money on experiences like vacations and concerts rather than things like clothes. Bangalore-based Talha Salaria, 35, corporate lawyer and founder of Lawyers At Work (LAW), agrees. “A couple of years ago I was wondering whether to gift my mother jewellery for her birthday (which my mother loves) or take her for a holiday to Singapore. Finally, just the two of us went for a holiday and had a fabulous time. Looking back, I sometimes wonder why I even thought about what now seems like an obvious choice.”
Some experiences are obviously better than others. Goa-based psychologist Arpita Anand says, “There are memories associated with experiences that continue to bring happiness long after the actual experience is over.” People are happier travelling to holiday destinations than travelling in a car to get to work. The key seems to be engagement—if you are engaged in what you do, you will be a happier person. Read More
Sujata Kelkar Shetty, PhD, writes on public health issues and is a research scientist trained at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, US.