We’re constantly being sold a dream that having more money will make us happy, but there is no consistent correlation between wealth and happiness.
In fact, several studies have shown that when people with enough income to satisfy their needs spend time thinking about how much money they have, it makes them less happy than if they were spending that time talking about something else- like their job or family.
Furthermore, even when someone does achieve his or her goal of amassing a large amount of cash, this can sometimes backfire and hurt their overall level of happiness.
A wealthy person may feel stressed out and overwhelmed by all of the demands that come along with their lifestyle, which could be a cause of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety.
Alternatively, he or she might become focused on keeping up appearances and behaving in a way that seems beyond what his or her budget allows for, which can result in stress and dissatisfaction with himself or herself.
Either way, these are not conditions we want to put in place of seeking happier, healthier thoughts, and should instead be treated as opportunities to explore what changes can be made to improve one’s personal wellness.
Make sure to follow your dreams, but don’t expect yourself to be completely satisfied while you’re pursuing them. It takes work to stay motivated, so try to enjoy the process rather than just waiting for the next big thing.
Reasons why more money doesn’t make you happier
We’re constantly exposed to increasing amounts of unnecessary material wealth, which creates an unhealthy obsession with status and prestige.
We live in a culture that encourages people to compare their own lives to those of others, which sets off a process called social comparison.
This happens when you feel dissatisfied with your life and think about what someone else has that you don’t. You may also compare yourself to past selves or maybe you’ll be disappointed by how you measure up to your ideal self.
By setting these comparisons, we create internal pressures that can influence how you feel about yourself and your lifestyle.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you aren’t living your life properly because there are so many other people out there who have it better than you do.
In this state of mind, you could start looking for ways to increase your personal success by going after bigger and brighter prizes. This is what makes achieving your dreams even more difficult.
Another reason why more money doesn’t make you happy is that you spend a lot of time debating whether to buy something or not.
You might want to purchase a new shirt but you struggle over which one to pick, delaying your choice until you’ve exhausted all possibilities. Then you decide against buying anything at all.
Eventually, you give up and say nothing, depriving yourself of some trivial pleasure. Or perhaps you bought the shirt and then decided not to wear it.
It’s important to have enough money to meet your everyday needs
We’re constantly being told that we need more money and that having more wealth is the key to happiness. Technically speaking, this theory has never been proven wrong. People who are wealthy enjoy a higher level of happiness than people who are not, according to research.
But there is another, arguably more credible explanation for this finding. This idea was first proposed in 1972 by Stanford University economist William Frucht. He called it “the status effect.”
The status effect says that most people want what other people have — a bigger house, car, boat, etc. — not because they think owning these things makes them happy, but because they want to be like those people.
By spending money on such items, you make others around you feel good about themselves by showing that they are successful (and thus, attractive). This feeling of success then gives them an inner boost – kind of like how eating food makes you feel better.
Spending money to gain happiness can backfire
We are constantly exposed to advertisements telling us how much money we need to make or earn to feel happy. Messages like these influence our subconscious beliefs about what it takes to be happy.
These messages tell us that to be happier, we must spend more money, but research shows that this is not always the case.
It seems that having less money makes you happier than spending lots of money. This has been observed in studies conducted across different cultures and time frames.
A study published by Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, found that when people were asked to write about their daily struggles for one week, half wrote about their lack of funds while the other half did not include any references to money.
This experiment was repeated twice with similar results where both groups reported increased levels of happiness after writing about their struggle for just one day.
Another study conducted by Elizabeth Dunn, a psychologist who specializes in social emotions, tested whether giving away some of your belongings would increase your level of contentment.
Participants were assigned either to go through an experience of losing something important to them (such as leaving home for the first time) or to look forward to doing so.
Some participants were asked to give up one item they used frequently for a few days, whereas others gave up two items that they liked using once a month.
It’s important to have savings
We’re constantly being marketed stories of how having more money makes you happier, but there is actually some research that suggests the exact opposite.
A lot of these studies ask respondents to identify what kind of lifestyle they want – whether it be with less than $1 million, or somewhere in between. Then, they assess their income several months later to see if they were able to achieve that goal.
The thing about this approach is that people are not always truthful when asked about their financial situation. People may exaggerate their monthly incomes or underestimate how much money they have in the bank.
Furthermore, no one really knows what kind of life they would’ve wanted until years down the road. Would you truly feel happy spending your days watching TV? Or would you enjoy traveling instead?
It’s also worth noting that even though many think that living beyond your means will make you happy, it can often do the complete opposite. Overconsuming resources and limiting yourself from experiencing things can lead to depression.
Editor’s note: This article was published in February as part of our month-long celebration of Black History Month. If you enjoyed this essay, please read another of our favorites here or look through our past essays here.
This article was written by Molly Ebeling and originally appeared on AskMen.com. Read her latest tips at AskMen’s Life & Style Blog.
Paying off debt
According to an article published in Psychology Today, being rich doesn’t make people happier than poor people. In fact, it can have the opposite effect.
A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University found that when individuals earn more money, they are not necessarily any happier – at least, not for very long.
The researchers cite income as one of several key factors that influence happiness.
Another is whether or not you feel like you’re living up to your own standards — what we call internal consistency. If you’re making too much money, you could be feeling dissatisfied with yourself and your life.
But studies show that over time, higher incomes usually bring about feelings of contentment. This shift in mood comes from reducing stress, giving you more space to focus on other things, such as family and friends.
You may also find that limiting your spending gives you greater satisfaction with how you live your life.
Spending time with friends and family
We are spending less of our time together as a society, and when we do spend time together, it is usually spent in front of a screen. With screens being used for entertainment, work, and communication purposes, people have become more detached than ever before.
In a world where technology can easily distract us, learning how to manage your money better takes effort.
But aside from the cost-effectiveness of mastering basic finance skills, research shows that this knowledge can help improve your overall happiness.
We all need to feel like we’re living within our means, but additional savings may also make you feel happier. It gives you a sense of accomplishment by showing you’ve done your best to save up, use your resources wisely, and preserve what you’ve got.
And while saving money doesn’t necessarily create lasting joy, limiting how much you spend can give you some relief during times of financial stress.
Learning to be content
We are constantly surrounded by an overabundance of material things that we simply cannot use or enjoy, at least not for very long.
This is why it can feel like you’re never-ending cycle of wanting more and spending money to try and make yourself happy. It is this constant desire for more and better experiences that creates a stress-filled lifestyle which then leads to poor health and/or mental illness.
It is important to learn how to be content with what you have. You will need to recognize that being wealthy isn’t necessarily happier than being less well-off.
A few years ago, people talked about living within your means but today it has become fashionable to talk about living a simple life. How can you expect to feel relaxed and happy when you are always chasing after something?
If you want to experience true happiness, give up excess materials, reduce your monthly expenses and focus on spending no more than you earn each month. You” ll probably find that you’re still living a rich life, but you’ll spend these days enjoying what you’ve got instead of longing for what you don’t.
“Wealthy” doesn’t mean “rich”
Many people confuse wealth with richness. While having lots of money is great, investing in assets and resources rather than expensive consumer products is more meaningful.
Consider donating to a charity
We’re constantly being bombarded with messages telling us that we need more money, and lots of it, to be happy. Messages like this come from companies who make large amounts of money off of your desire to buy their products or services.
They are also a product in themselves – a feeling of false happiness that costs you later. It is expensive in terms of time and energy, but not too difficult to avoid if necessary.
We have become so accustomed to getting these messages that they no longer affect us. Instead of changing how we feel about money, spending money changes what emotions we are trying to hide at the moment.
Donating to a cause that makes you feel good can help you find true happiness. You will probably notice differences within yourself as well – experiencing less stress, for example.
It is important to know where to draw the line when donations are needed. Make sure your donation does some type of good and isn’t simply used to gain personal rewards.