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If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can?

If Money Can’t Buy Happiness, What Can?

Think of the last time your bought something you really wanted. How did you feel afterwards? It felt good.

    Now, is there something else you really want? Maybe a new laptop, smartphone, or some nice clothes. Buying that thing, whatever it is, will bring you happiness. When you finally have it, you will be excited to try it out.

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          As cliche as it says “money can’t buy happiness,” we feel happy when we buy the things we want. Why is that?

          The Real Reason Why You Are Happy When You Buy Stuff

          Human beings are hardwired to seek instant gratification. You’ve probably heard the phrase instant gratification hundreds of times. To get that thing we want, the moment we want it. This desire for instant gratification came to us as a survival mechanism. I’m not going to talk about instant gratification in details here, if you want to find out more about it, take a look at 5 Ways to Get Over Approval Addiction and Instant Gratification.

          While instant gratification is in human’s nature, we live in a society driven by delayed gratification. Delayed gratification is the desire for something but the inability to get it when you want. In our society, you have to wait for your pay day, your meal at a restaurant, your coffee at Starbucks. When the thing you want finally arrives, you get excited.

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            Your excitement for this thing, the delayed gratification often elicits stronger emotional responses in you than when you get it. This feeling comes from dopamine a chemical that influences the pleasure centers in our brains.[1] When you become excited for something, you are actually enjoying a release of dopamine into our system. The thing you are actually excited for is almost secondary to it.

            Think about it, how did you feel a couple hours after buying something you waited a long time for? It was probably not nearly as good as when you first got it, or when you’re waiting to get it. It’s natural, it’s a part of human nature.

              In this way the happiness you feel isn’t true happiness. In fact, biologically speaking, you’re just enjoying a blast of dopamine. When this blast of dopamine is gone, you want something new again, which is secretly, more dopamine. This is what that old saying “money can’t buy you happiness” really means.

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              There is, however, a way in which money can buy you happiness. It’s just not in a way you think.

              An Alternative to Buying Happiness

              Recently Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA conducted a study where two groups of people were given $40 each.[2] One group was told to spend it in buying a possession, an object, something they wanted. The other group was told to spend it in ways that would enable them to have more free time, for example, having food delivered to save them from cooking, or hiring a cleaner, instead of cleaning their house themselves. When each participant in the study were to measure their happiness to a 10 point scale, those who spent their money on more free time were almost always one whole point ahead of those who spent their money on stuff.

              In a sense, they were happier because they brought themselves out of doing something they didn’t want to do. Just buying more stuff, in the long run didn’t have much of an affect on their happiness, when those who spent money on time found an increase in life satisfaction.

              It was the free time that made people happy.

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                It was the quality time that contributed more to their happiness, the money was just a tool they used to get more time. But the money ultimately is unnecessary. All that is required is a re-adjustment of how you measure time.

                Everyone has 24 hours a day. The life expectancy for females is 81.2 years; for males, it’s 76.4 years. Most people have more or less the same time of living. To make every hour, or minute count is the way to create your own happy time. If you are always feeling busy and don’t think you have enough quality time for yourself, you need to make a change to turn things around.

                To be truly happy, make quality time a true value in your life. Find out how to do so in my other article How to Gain More Time Like Making Money.

                More About Happiness

                Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

                Reference

                More by this author

                Leon Ho

                Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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                Last Updated on September 18, 2020

                13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                “We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

                “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

                Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

                You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

                Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

                1. Take a step back and evaluate

                When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

                1. What is the problem?
                2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
                3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
                4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
                5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

                Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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                2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

                If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

                At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

                Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

                3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

                Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

                4. Process your thoughts/emotions

                Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

                1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
                2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
                3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
                4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

                5. Acknowledge your thoughts

                Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

                By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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                Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

                6. Give yourself a break

                If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

                7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

                A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

                Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

                After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

                8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

                As Helen Keller once said,

                “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

                Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

                9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

                In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

                1. What’s the situation?
                2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
                3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
                4. Take action on your next steps!

                After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

                10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

                A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

                Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

                For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

                11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

                No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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                12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

                No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

                13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

                There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

                After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

                Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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