If you won a billion dollars would you be happy? Imagine what you could buy will all that money. The things you could do.
But would you really be happy?
The stats say you may not actually be happy with all that money. In fact, an incredibly higher income only predicts fewer moments of sadness, but not exactly more moments of happiness.
If more money isn’t the source of happiness, then what is?
Today we’re going to unravel this mystery. Here’s the most assured way to happiness.
What is Happiness?
Happiness is difficult to define. Over the last several thousand years of human culture and evolution, we’ve defined happiness differently depending on global circumstances.
Today, scientists struggle to define happiness. Recently, a group of researchers distilled happiness down into three types.
- Happiness on a global scale assessing life and everything involved
- Happiness related to past emotional experiences
- Happiness as all the positive emotional reactions over time
And while these three categories seem to paint broad strokes, the researchers agreed on how happiness should feel. It should always be a positive emotion. This means satisfaction with life, elevated mood, and enjoyment (usually related to activity).
Don’t confuse happiness with pleasure. They’re not the same thing.
Pleasure is a visceral reaction. Often we associate pleasure with momentary activities that create a chemical response in our brain and body. This includes sex, good food, compliments, etc.
Pleasure does not equate happiness. Although it can add to happiness.
Happiness, on the other hand, is a more stable state of being. You might not always be happy, but you can maintain or experience happiness for longer than you can usually experience pleasure. Also, ask yourself, which can you have too much of, happiness or pleasure?
Pleasure is like chocolate. You eat one or two squares and it tastes great. Eat ten chocolate bars at once and the pleasure wanes.
Happiness is more like pleasant weather. You may not always have it, but the more you have it, the better.
Money Can Be a Predictor But Likely Not the Cause
Ask yourself this: what does money do? It gives you a little bit of power.
You can access goods. You can keep a roof over yourself and feed yourself. You can help others.
You only need so much. If you can meet your needs, have enough saved for the future, and then have money to do pleasurable things, you’ll likely be happier than not.
But researchers found that money only predicts happiness to a certain extent. Any income increase up to $75,000 correlates with more happiness. Anything after that makes zero impact on happiness.
Yes, it frees you up to do more. But again, that very well could be increasing pleasure and not happiness.
They’ve also found that how you make your money predicts happiness. Does your job give fulfillment?
Suppose you’re making $75,000 doing something that stresses you horribly and makes no difference in the world. Are you any happier than the person who makes $30,000 but gets to make people smile every day?
So, what’s really making you happier when you make more money? Freedom from worry. Meeting your needs and feeling secure.
Happiness as Accumulation
Courtney Dauwalter runs 200+ mile races. She must be the most miserable person on the planet.
The funny thing is, she’s not.
Every time Courtney finishes a race, she’s beaming. Even if she just pushed through hours of stomach aches, sleep deprivation, running on legs that quit 100 miles ago, she’s still grinning at the finish.
What’s the secret? She’s gotta have some demon in her soul, right?
It’s really no secret at all. It’s the incredible feeling of accomplishment each time she crosses that finish line. It’s also the accumulation of highs during the race.
Her family follows her and meets her when allowed. She brings a crew of friends who dote on her when she needs it at particular aid stations. She surrounded by love and support during the darkest hours.
It’s the accumulation of these things, including the pleasures inherent in nature and food, that make Courtney smile.
Happiness isn’t material wealth. It’s the accumulation of all the positive things in life contrasted with some of the darkest lows.
This is why you can experience happiness even during a tragedy. If you surround yourself with good people who can comfort you or make you laugh, you’ll likely experience happiness.
Accomplishment, Fulfillment, Family, and Friends
Commonly, the things that make us happy aren’t the things we always spend our money on. We tend to spend our money on things and pleasures thinking these things will make us happy.
Things and pleasure can’t make us happy.
One example of this is a recent study.
Researchers took a certain amount of money and gave it to participants. One group was told to buy whatever thing they wanted for themselves. The other group was told to spend it on whatever time-saving service they wanted.
Which group do you think were happier? The second group of course.
When you spend money on more time, you’re giving yourself the ability to do things that are more meaningful to you. If you hate cleaning the house, you could hire someone to do it so you can spend more time with your family after work.
You attain two things that make you happy this way. You attain time with family and the satisfaction of a clean house. Also, a clean house could also mean less clutter which also correlates with less negative stress.
The Most Assured Way to Happiness
The most assured way to happiness is through fulfillment. How do we experience fulfillment? Through accomplishment, meaning, and connection.
Do something that you care about and will make an impact in this world and on others. Surround yourself with positive friends who will support you even in the worst of times. And set longterm goals for your life you can accomplish.
What is your definition of happiness? Are you happy? Tell us about it in the comments below.