14 Apr there is a way to buy happiness
via Forge by Laura Vanderkam
We’ve all heard the maxim that money can’t buy happiness. But what if it sort of can? Or at least a little smidge of happiness? Or think of it this way: Let’s say you’ve found yourself with a bit of extra money. What could you do with it to have the biggest impact on your daily life?
The good news is that money really can make life better. The bad news is that we tend not to take human psychology into account as we make our money decisions. Figure out how to spend it strategically, though, and you can buy a lot of well-being for very little money out the door.
Research on happiness has repeatedly found that we quickly get used to things. While some modern research has undercut a classic study claiming that lottery winners weren’t significantly happier a few years after winning, other scholarship still supports the idea of a happiness set point that is partly genetic. Psychologists (and economists) call this tendency the “hedonic treadmill” — the idea that we’re constantly chasing the pleasure of the newest thing. If you never go out to eat, a suburban chain restaurant can be blissful. If you go out weekly, you will be less impressed.
And because we get used to things, it’s hard to buy happiness by purchasing big-ticket items. A flashy car will make you smile when you buy it, but it is still the same car six months later, and by then the novelty — and the accompanying joy — will have worn off. And since you can’t exactly buy a new car whenever you need a boost, it’s likely not the most impactful purchase, happiness-wise. In a 2010 paper surveying a number of experiments, researchers concluded: “As long as money is limited by its failure to grow on trees, we may be better off devoting our finite financial resources to purchasing frequent doses of lovely things rather than infrequent doses of lovelier things.” Indeed, they noted, “across many different domains, happiness is more strongly associated with the frequency than the intensity of people’s positive affective experiences.”
So how can we give ourselves lots of jolts of happiness from small, lovely things? One of the best ways to put this philosophy into practice is to look for ways to upgrade everyday objects or experiences…
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