It’s surprising but true: money makes you happy but only up to a point. Once our basic needs are met, an increase in money does not add much to our joy. Then what really does?
Pleasure and purpose, according to Prof Paul Dolan of the London School of Economics. He defines happiness as ‘the experience of pleasure and purpose over time’ and specifically in day-to-day moments. Decoded, it means finding joy in and adding purpose to our daily lives. And you can use your money to do both. Here’s how:
Feel that you have too much to do and not enough time? You’ve experienced time poverty. When a resource is scarce, we tend to value it more. It’s the same with time. Then why not use your extra bucks to free up precious hours from routine tasks, for things that matter? Research shows that those who value time over money, feel happier. Pay to get your errands done. Sign-up for home delivery of laundry. The additional tab is worth it. You get more hours to spend with family, pursue a hobby, or simply do nothing.
Invest in experiences.
Buy yourself a new car and you’ll be excited for a few days. But soon, that excitement fades. Blame it on hedonic adaptation – our ability to get used to things, even those that we’ve longed for. What lasts longer is the satisfaction from our experiences. Be it the road trip with friends, watching your favorite band perform live, or getting the best seats for the match. We relive those experiences long after they are gone.
It’s proven: we’re hardwired for altruism. In studies, participants who chose to spend money on others than on themselves, reported being happier. Being kind or cooperating with others activates the release of dopamine – the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter in our brain. And as social beings, donating for a cause or spending on others helps us feel more connected. Even something as simple as buying your friend a cup of coffee does the trick.
Making conscious choices about how we spend our time, money, and efforts can help us get the most out of them. As Prof Dolan says, “We are what we pay attention to.” Find what makes you happy. Invest your time and money in it.