Can Money Buy You Happiness?
We live in an extreme society. A society where we can find the morbidly obese and the fatally thin, both by personal choice and volition. A society where there are those that work eighty hours a week while there are those that refuse to work any. A society of ultraconservatives and “bleeding-heart” liberals.
With such a polarized society, it’s not a shock to find the discussion about the relationship of money and happiness as equally dichotomous and mutually-exclusive. To some, money does not create happiness; in fact, it is the source of evil. On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have those that worship money, elevating it to a status of omnipotence and employing all means to make more of it.
Money and happiness.
Those elusive powers and agents. We expend most of our adult lives in search of an abundance of both, one often at the expense of the other. A holistic approach to understanding their relationship and striving for both, then, is in order to strengthen and sustain our financial and spiritual lives.
When It Can and It Can’t
Those that claim that money causes or creates problems and that it has no bearing on contentment and self-actualization need to take a more thoughtful look at the face of poverty within this country and outside of its borders. Money can buy happiness in the sense that it grants options and voice to those barred from experiencing the most basic human experience, which, at a minimum, include health, education, safety, and life purpose.
Once these fundamental needs are met, an increase in money begins to take on diminishing returns because of our human capacity to adapt to our environment. This means two things. First, we get easily bored once we have grown accustomed to a new comfort, whether it be a new car, a new tummy and nose, vacation-home, or handbag. Secondly and equally important, we keep looking upwards and around at what the next level up has to offer.
Newer. Shinier. Faster. Bigger. Sexier.
This cycle of using money to make purchases of increasingly more exotic, extreme, and intense locations and experiences in hopes of attaining a sliver of happiness is what behavioral economist coin, “the hedonistic treadmill”.
And getting off of the treadmill is hard largely because Americans have been conditioned through overexposure to big business media not to think for themselves. Not thinking for yourself leads you to value the opinions of others more than your own. Not thinking for yourself, additionally, puts you at odds with your authentic self and your personal truth. How many times have you been aware or noticed that following pattern? You are excited about the purchase of a particular item, fantasize about how it will complete your look, how important and sexy you will feel when you wear it or own it on your way to the counter or sales manager. You buy it. You’re elated. You wear it and/or use it a couple of times. Weeks pass by and you are not as excited about that same item that produced such an intense sense of satisfaction as you were before. So, you go shopping, looking, and hoping for something new to catch your eye to make you feel important, alive, and centered again.
Intuition would lead you to conclude, then, that shopping and buying a lot of different stuff is not going to fill that void,that thirst, and that want to be fully present. EVER. Yet, you continue to do it because you somehow trust the fantasy of television more than you do your own gut. You would prefer to feel that something is wrong with you and perhaps you are not buying the right item or enough of it to bring you joy, so you venture to consume more excessively and deliberately.
Stop This Treadmill! I Want to Get Off
Finding happiness with your money begins with first finding peace with yourself. This is not a call to throw away all of your worldly possessions or campaign to isolate yourself from the conveniences of modern society. What it is, however, is an appeal for you to reflect and unearth your values, interests, likes, and wants. Once you have uncovered who you are, you can then use your money to fund, enhance, and nurture these experiences. Below is an example of my interest and how much (or little) money I need to make me feel happy. Please take 15 minutes to do the same. You’ll be surprised to discern if it is the nature of your spending and not necessarily the amount of money that you spend that is the source of your discontent or bliss.
Seven Things that Make Me Happy & the Cost of Happiness
1. pedicure: $12 every three weeks
2. dinner with girlfriends: once a month $15-$20
3.long walks: free
4. Travel: anywhere between $200 a weekend trip to DC to Antigua for carnival $1,000
5. A good lecture or networking event: free-$30
6. A clean bathroom: $10 (cleaning products)
7. Personal tantric yoga retreat: $300
Frugalistas! What about you? Please share how money has brought you happiness. I would love to be inspired.
[info_box type=”alert_box”]If you need deeper work around healing your relationship with money or overcoming your blocks and fears, maybe it’s time for some money therapy. [/info_box]