May 30, 2012 – While driving through a not so terrific neighborhood on Monday, we came upon a Target store and made a quick pit stop. Exiting parking lot after we got what we needed, my shopping companion asked me if I thought money could buy happiness, because as he pointed out, there were a lot of miserable-looking people in the store that day.
Of course, he was assuming that these particular shoppers didn’t have much money because of the neighborhood, but that isn’t always the case, and the heat and humidity were pretty severe that day, which can put anyone in a less than stellar mood.
Still, the question provided for a few interesting theories that kept us occupied for the next several miles. We came to the conclusion that money probably won’t lead to happiness, especially if you are unhappy to begin with, but having enough to meet your monthly bills with a little to spare – and not just living paycheck to paycheck – certainly makes life less stressful, which probably make you happier.
This topic has been well-debated and researched, so there’s certainly nothing earth shattering in our conclusion. But here are a few interesting facts you may not have known: Research from a 2006 national happiness survey found that if you compare two people with the same income, the one living in a richer area than the other reports being less happy. Apparently, keeping up with the Joneses is more difficult than it looks.
And while money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, being happy can often lead to more money. That same study found people who considered themselves happy earn higher incomes than those who are unhappy. Feeling happy tends to make one more productive, which often leads to promotions and higher paychecks.
The study also suggested that the people of Denmark are among the happiest people on earth. They also pay the highest tax rate in the world, up to 72 percent of their incomes, which could mean the actually have less money than many other world citizens, which really throws a wrench in the money/happiness theory.
So, if money isn’t what matters, what makes us happy? The simple answer is good health and people (family and friends), both of which rank much higher on the happiness scale than money, and cannot be bought.
According to world-renowned mind-body healing pioneer Deepak Chopra, happiness boils down to a formula: Happiness = how you look at a situation + conditions of living + voluntary choices.
How you look at a situation depends on whether you are a glass half full or empty kind of person, which is typically established, according to Dr. Chopra, by the time you are three. Money, of course, comes into play with the conditions of living, but Dr. Chopra insists that the only money that will make you happy is the amount that will grant you just the basic needs in life, such as shelter and food.
So, there is an answer to this age-old question, after all. While money in excess may not exactly make us happier per se, a livable amount is necessary to give us the foundation for happiness.