- By Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E., Pittsburgh, PA
Money can’t buy happiness… but it can buy a certain degree of life satisfaction, depending on how much wealth you have and how you spend it.
Many people share a fairly common misconception. They believe that having lots of money can make you happy. Some even say that the more money you have, the happier you can be. Others believe that having money is not spiritually or socially acceptable, and that money is the root cause of all evil. Are any of these beliefs really true? To answer this question, begin by asking yourself, what does money mean to you, and how do you treat it when you have it? Here’s what science has to say.
The new science of happiness starts with a simple insight: human beings are never satisfied. In other words, once a person’s needs are met, additional income mostly goes to satisfying wants which, beyond a very initial level, doesn’t lead to additional happiness in life. A study of more than 12,000 people from various social and economic groups found no correlation between income and happiness. The single biggest culprit is that having money raises our aspirations about the happiness that we expect in our daily lives, and these raised aspirations can be toxic. While earning more money makes you happy in the short term, you quickly adjust to your new wealth—and everything it buys you. More money can also lead to more stress and impairs our ability to enjoy those things.
Depending on how it is used, money can create powerful, positive changes in the world. Having money allows us to function more easily in the world, provide comfort in our lives and in the lives of others. However, because attachment to money is based on fear, it always creates insecurity. The desire to have more money, and thereby feel more secure, never ends. Security can never come from money alone. Some of the people who have the most money are also the most insecure. Does this mean you must give up the desire to attain wealth? Not necessarily.
In and of itself money is neither good nor bad. It is what we choose to do with the money that determines if it will have a positive effect on others, society, the world, and ourselves. Sure, money could make a difference to many aspects of your life, but could it really improve your happiness? Numerous studies and surveys suggest that money may help buy happiness when used to meet basic needs. The total happiness value money may produce can only be increased when it is shared with others or spent on causes those in need.
Like many people, you probably think achievements such as education, intelligence, athletic ability or being sociable, marriage, family, and status make a person happy.
Studies of happiness in several countries have found that, while money makes these achievements more attainable, it has little to do with happiness (except among the very poor) when compared to an individual's characteristic sense of wellbeing. Some psychologists believe happiness is genetic. Other scientists say they may have located an important area of the brain where happiness is generated.
While these ideas are debated, we don't have to wait to begin discovering happiness within ourselves. Each of our lives is sprinkled with ample opportunities for achieving happiness. Search for the small things that give you a little laugh or a smile. Take time to be with your family and friends. These are the treasures that will enhance your happiness in the long run, not some grand achievements that only give you a lift for a short while.
Money alone will not make you happy. Decades of research show that while money doesn’t buy happiness, for some people it may reduce unhappiness. After a minimum level of income that allows people to satisfy their basic needs, the relationship between financial and emotional well-being is weak. Just having money doesn’t necessarily translate into greater happiness, but using it well can. In addition, the evidence shows that valuing time over money promotes social connections, which leads to a host of benefits and happiness. According to spiritual wisdom, real happiness is the natural byproduct of unselfish service to God and humanity without any ulterior motives. Those who spent money on others or donated it to charity reported a greater sense of happiness than those who lavished it on themselves. This experience of unselfish sharing with others can make us truly happy. Spending money on experiences has been found to bring more profound happiness than spending it on possessions.
I believe that happiness, on some level, comes from the people that you care about most, and that true happiness results from sharing generously of yourself, your mind, knowledge, emotion, and spirit, with all those who come in contact with you. Genuine relationships are where true happiness comes from. So, be an optimist, do kind deeds for others, explore the deeper resources within you by praying to God from your heart. Through sincere prayer and mindful meditation, you will attain the highest achievement in life - the discovery of your eternal happiness with God.
It is extremely rare that you can have both Money and Happiness. Which will you choose?
About the Author:
Darshan Goswami has more than 40 years of experience in the energy field. He worked as a Project Manager for Renewable Energy, Micro-grid, and Smart Grid projects at the United States Department of Energy (DOE) in Pittsburgh. Earlier, he retired as Chief (Head) of Renewable Energy from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, DC. Mr. Goswami is a registered Professional Engineer (PE) with a passion and commitment to promote, develop and deploy Renewable Energy and the Hydrogen Economy. In dedication to his life serving humanity and poor people, the author supports the India Foundation for Children Education and Care, Inc. (http://www.ifcare.org/).