It’s hard to deny that being able to afford the things you need, and want, is certainly an advantage in life. But does it make people happier?
Financial hardship can lead to terrible stress and anxiety, which can significantly impact a person’s health, not to mention the difficulties associated with affording good medical treatments when something goes wrong.
But this does not mean that wealth necessarily leads to happiness, and poverty does not necessarily cause depression.
More money is almost always a great benefit for people struggling to get their needs met.
Being relieved from the burdens of financial stress can greatly improve a person’s quality of life and makes it much easier to focus on things that make them truly happy. It can be an insurmountable challenge to find fun and happiness when you don’t have food or shelter.
But once the basic needs are met, it is less about how much money people have and more about what they do that makes them happy. Once a person reaches a level of income or wealth where they are not struggling to pay bills or put food on the table, happiness and life satisfaction can plateau.
Pleasure or Happiness?
Money can buy all sorts of fun gadgets and toys, fancy clothes, and tasty meals. But the pleasure felt from these purchases usually only lasts for a short while.
Pleasure is not the same as happiness.
Happiness is a deeper and more enduring form of satisfaction that comes from within, whereas pleasure often comes from external sources.
Money might be able to buy a few pleasures, but happiness is more often found through the realization of personal values.
Prioritizing social relationships, for example, can bring happiness. So can pursuing a purpose in life, feeling useful and needed by others, developing skills and talents, being successful at work or in school, and engaging in spiritual activities.
Having more money, and having your basic needs met, can make it much easier to pursue these activities and develop happiness from within. But happiness can be realized through these pursuits, no matter how rich or poor you are.
Finding Happiness in Giving Back
Money might help create the circumstances for happiness, but this will likely only happen if these resources are directed toward something meaningful and worthwhile.
Buying more things in the name of hedonic pleasure for yourself is not likely to bring any true happiness.
However, using your resources to uplift the people around you might be the key to finding lasting happiness.
Whether that’s donating time or money to causes your care about, or sharing experiences with loved ones, undertaking activities that support others can bring much more satisfaction, joy, and happiness into one’s life than self-indulgence.
Maybe happiness is not about how much you have, but rather how much you give.