18 May Whoever Says Money Can’t Buy Happiness?
We’ve all heard the good old saying ‘…money can’t buy happiness’. But regardless of what economists and social scientists tell us about the relationship between money and happiness, most people seem inclined to find out for themselves!
Perhaps the truth a little more nuanced. Money satisfies our basic needs. It often brings comfort, security and in many cases, recognition. For many of us, symbolises status and success. Sometimes, it stands for the things we feel we lack; we often tell ourselves that if only we had money, we would be more adventurous, generous, respected or thin…
According to Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, two Harvard professors with fascinating and cutting-edge research in behavioural science, just because money often fails to buy happiness doesn’t mean it can’t!
Dunn and Norton started their research doling out money to strangers but with a catch – rather than letting the recipients spend the money however they wanted, the money had to be spent how the professors wanted. The results were astounding…
‘…changing the way people spent money altered their happiness over the course of the day. And we saw this effect even when people spent as little as $5.’ They reported.
Their research has since been broadened to diverse regions of the world from Belgium to East Africa, demonstrating that everyday spending choices unleash a ‘cascade of biological and emotional effects – detectable right down to saliva’
What this research seem to tell us that while more money doesn’t necessarily result in more happiness, how you choose to spend your money can in fact have an impact – sometimes quite significant – on happiness and overall life satisfaction.
For instance, buying experiences – e.g. a holiday or a trip to the theatre or dance lesson tend to lead to more happiness than just buying stuff – new big-screen TV or nicer car or even bigger house! Strangely, spending money on others – giving to loved one and even strangers, is associated with a greater feeling of happiness, than spending on ourselves!
The bottom-line is while greater wealth doesn’t always lead to greater happiness, we can at least try to get more ‘happiness bang’ for our bulk by being a little more deliberate in the way we spend money.