The Problem: We seem to think that money can buy us happiness.
The Science: Satisfaction from hedonic spending and consumption is fleeting.
The Solution: Give more (of anything!) to others.
In this time and age, money seems to have an influence on every aspect of our lives. Social media is full of ads for shopping hauls, shiny new cars, and exotic vacations. They’re accompanied by pictures of smiling faces and ecstatic individuals. But is it all true? I’d argue that this materialist approach to life has deprived us of true happiness. Research shows that earning more money does not guarantee more happiness. What really matters is how you spend it. Here are three tips that will allow you to stop relying on money to make you happy:
- Stop Buying Things: Buy into Your Experiences
The people in life who have the most–luxurious cars, opulent houses, and a six-figure paycheck–are not always the happiest. They rely on hedonic sources of happiness: items that give you a momentary rush of positive energy that plummets quickly and leaves you wanting the high again. Think about the things in life that keep you smiling all day long: family, friends, or your favorite hobby. Research shows that indulging in life’s experiences gives us a deeper sense of fulfillment and connection than a new pair of shoes ever will. So, what should you invest your energy into? Enjoying moments with the people you love.
- Learn to Want Less
Is “more” or the “best” really always better? American society tells us to accumulate things and accomplishments. But getting the “next best thing” over and over again just leaves you with a rubbish bin full of perfectly good cell phones that have hardly been used. Don’t fall victim to marketing techniques: learn to be happy with what you have. How can you do that? You have to change your attitude. Instead of pining for the newest product, make the one you have better all by yourself! Take a Sunday afternoon and make a custom-designed case for your old phone. Make it so that it’s 100% you! Get a clear case, pick your favorite color or picture, and put it inside. That way, you can have exactly what you want without spending more money.
- Give to Others Instead of Yourself
Ever notice that when you buy something for yourself, it doesn’t seem as special as when you receive the same thing as a gift from someone else? That’s because when you receive a gift from someone else, the gift serves as the physical embodiment of their generosity. It’s like carrying around a little piece of them. Research shows that social connection makes us feel more fulfilled and happy. That gift serves as the link between you and someone who can’t always be around. Turn this principle around and give it to others to feel more satisfied with yourself. Studies show that gift-giving between people not only strengthens social bonds but self-esteem. Get more bang for your buck and give to others to help them and yourself.
Everyone seems to think that they can buy themselves happiness. American culture feeds this false prophecy with its endless fare of new goods. But the reality is that these products only give temporary satisfaction. Lasting happiness is cultivated through human connection. How can you get more connected? Give more to others: gifts, time, or even support. They’ll want to return the favor. That bond will make you happy for decades to come.