Buying Happiness

Why do you work hard? To put food on the table? To care for yourself or your family? To keep the lights on? Are there any other reasons? What about that nice pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing or that flat screen television? Those who are lucky enough to earn enough to pay their bills and have some left over keep working and accumulating money – sometimes to build a safety net or nest egg, but often because we REALLY work to be able to earn the things that make us…happy?

You’ve heard the saying “money can’t buy happiness” and yet we keep trying to! Why do we seem so determined to find a way to link materials and happiness? Well, for one thing: that saying is wrong! Money CAN buy happiness, to a point. Research has found that increased funds also equals better/safer living conditions, improved health and healthcare, better nutrition and somewhat lower stress (less stress related to feeding, clothing, and keeping your family safe). But that’s where the correlation stops. Once our basic needs are met and we are relatively comfortable we no longer get happier as our bank accounts and pay checks get bigger.

It turns out happiness does have a price. Often, that price may actually mean working and making LESS. People with high stress, high-demand jobs show higher levels of work-related stress compared to those with less consuming careers, and this can impact your stress and happiness even when you’re not at work. Does this mean you should quit your high-profile job? Not necessarily. However, it may mean that you need to re-define your priorities and draw boundaries to keep your job from draining your happiness.

What can you do? Think about the things that make you feel the happiest. Is it spending time with your family? Going out with friends? Maybe it’s playing a round of golf or going for a run. Whatever it is, make sure you are making time to do those things at least a few times a week. Also, put down your phone! It is tempting to check your work email even when you’re off the clock, and some people are required to be available 24/7. However, decide that for an hour while you eat, while you spend quality time with someone who matters, or while you take some time for yourself, you put the phone away.

Finally, ask yourself: do I live to work or work to live?