Most of us spend a lot of time and effort trying to increase both of these during our lifetimes.
We have all heard the old adage that “Money can’t buy Happiness” but is this right?
Perhaps what we should say is:
“If you think money can’t buy happiness – you’re not spending it right!”
Many people dream of winning the lottery and already have ideas about what they would buy and how they would spend their winnings. They all think they would be much happier of they won a lot of money but research has shown that in fact, those people who do win the lottery, are rarely happier – often they overspend and end up in debt, their family are always asking for money and their friends and social relationships break down under the strain of very different expectations.
In 2008 a Harvard University paper written by E Dunn, L Aknin and M Norton confirmed that lottery winners don’t automatically become happier but found that where people spent money on others rather than themselves, they felt much happier.
They conducted interesting experiments all around the world where they gave some people money to spend on themselves and other similar people, money to spend on others during a specified timescale. They then asked them all at the end of the day, how they felt after spending the money and found that those who had spent money on others generally felt much happier, while the ones who had just put the money in their pocket and spent it on themselves didn’t feel either happier or less happy.
Even when people made the same purchases eg a cup of coffee, it made a big difference to how happy they felt if they bought for a homeless person rather than just for themselves as a normal everyday transaction.
In fact one of the essential elements of wellbeing is community (the other 4 are career, social, financial and physical) so it is no real surprise that people feel better about themselves/happier, if they are able to do something for others.
I distinctly remember how I felt when one day crossing the Severn Bridge during the time of the tolls, I was told by the cashier that the person in front had paid for me. I was surprised and delighted at the same time, but interestingly, not as happy or fulfilled as I was when I did the same thing for the car behind me a few days later.
We would love to hear from you if you have had similar experiences.
If you want to hear more about the Harvard experiment you can watch Michael Norton’s entertaining TED talk from 2011 here.
Of course, in order to be completely certain of your ongoing security and happiness, you have to be certain that you can afford to give money away or spend it on others.