We are reminded all the time that money doesn’t buy happiness. Is that true? Well…. kind of.
And no, not exactly.
Several studies have shown that an increase in money – even a major lottery win – might produce a flush of euphoria and relief; but an individual’s happiness levels go back to where they were before the money came in, usually within about three months or sooner. The technical name for it is Hedonic Adaptation (ie we adapt to the change and return to our habitual levels of pleasure).
Researchers in the USA found that people whose incomes are around $75,000 per annum or more don’t get any long-term happiness increase from an increase in money.
In fact, there’s a whole bunch of research which says your happiness is only 10% affected by your circumstances (remember this factoid, we’ll be coming back to it!)
But did you notice the glaring gap here?
It’s the group of people whose income is below $75,000.
That figure is an average amount, of course. There is not some happiness rule which says “everyone under this amount is miserable and everyone over it is happy” because that would be absurd.
It’s not to do with the specific amount. It’s to do with the perception of how much money is needed to live comfortably in the USA.
But this is only kind-of useful, because this change doesn’t happen because money can buy happiness – it can’t.
The change in mood happens because there is relief from the levels of chronic stress when money is a daily struggle.
The dollar amount at which “uncomfortable” or “difficult” kicks in is different for everyone, based on a range of factors like how many mouths need to be fed, how many hours are worked to get that money, how much is spent on numbing the pain of a job you hate, and your local cost of living.
So when someone says “money can’t buy you happiness” – they’re only mostly right.
Remember that 10 percent?
The good news is that even if your circumstances are in that money-stress range, they only dictate 10 percent of your happiness levels.
Most of your happiness levels are either built into your genetic tendencies (which you can influence way more than you probably think you can) or directly under your control.
So no, money doesn’t buy happiness.
But we live in a world where we’re bombarded with messages about how if we just had this toy or that look or this other lifestyle or that house, THEN we’d be happy.
Here are my top three tips for managing your happiness levels, regardless of circumstances (including money) – including some links to more details about how to do them:
- drop the habit of worry, by noticing when you are doing it and choosing a new thought – something like “I don’t have to think about that now” or “everything always works out in the end”. Worry is your brain engaging fear of the future, and there is nothing to be done right now – so it’s a big expenditure of energy for zero result. It wears you out while serving no purpose.
- practice appreciation for what you do have – and if you’re rolling your eyes because you’ve heard this a million times, that’s because IT WORKS. Write about three things per day that are going right, with lots of detail – bask in it and you’ll be rewiring your brain to give you back a better experience of life
- get moving and/or take some deep breaths. Do something physical which you enjoy and which makes you breathe deeply and/or sweat. For me, it’s singing in two different choirs, and gardening. Maybe for you it’s running or walking, or dancing, or baking bread. Your body likes it when you move because it dislodges old toxins and it burns off old energy. Your brain likes it when you breathe deep. Do either, or both.
Create a deliberate lift in your mood, in ways that are kind and respectful of you, and your circumstances will improve anyway.
But what if you fit into that group experiencing chronic money stress?
You will most likely benefit from these three moves even more than your wealthier sisters and brothers. Because, as we now know, money doesn’t buy happiness.
And if that seems like too big a stretch, I have a new program designed specifically for you. And because money coaching can be an expensive proposition (which means it can add to your existing money stress, rather than relieving it), I’ve made it super inexpensive (no really, you have to check it out!). There is even a free scholarship option you can apply for, because lack of money should be no barrier to this program.
If you know you can nail those three tips for lifting your vibe on your own, awesome!
If you’d like some help with the money stress piece, please check out the new program.