Can Money Buy Happiness? The Truth about Money and Happiness

Posted by Jeremy Chew
May 26, 2017

NOTE: This post has been self-published by the author. Anyone can write on Youth Ki Awaaz.


Yes and No

Under most circumstances, ask a person this question and the highly self-righteous individuals will reply with a loud resounding ‘no’ sometimes even taking it in offense that you could ever consider asking them that question in the first place. So, before you squirm in your seats, be assured that there is no judgement here. Everyone is, after all, valid to have their own thoughts and opinions.

For the most of it, I think we can all agree that we have different opinions and grades about what we regard as happiness. To a new mother, she would be blissfully happy cradling her little baby in her arms. To a high school student, scoring straight A’s in the final year exam would result in a fist bump and joyful leap into the air. To a bridegroom, watching his bride-to-be walk down the aisle could be deemed the happiest moment of his life. So, yes, we can all be contented with the simple pleasures in life but what you don’t see is how money comes into these scenarios.

Short-Term Happiness

The new mother could be worrying about the costs that come with milk powder and diapers to raise her newborn. On the other hand, the student begins to question if all the extra tuition classes are worth the additional money his parents are struggling to come up with. The bridegroom can also be worrying about the financial burden the wedding has caused. Which leads us to the conclusion that happiness requires money to sustain it. Or does it? While it is true that money could solve these problems in a jiffy, how long can this “bought” blissfulness last?

You would agree that the above people could have made do without the extras – that there are more important things to look forward to rather than to spend unnecessarily. The mother could instead find greater joy in seeing her child grow up – listening to how her baby utter his first word or watch how he takes his first few steps. The student would rather be going back to a peaceful home where his mother would lay down better dishes for dinner before he proceeds to study in his room. Last but not least, the groom could have make do with a simple wedding ceremony and spend his days contented with a marriage life unbridled with debt. After all, the happiness that comes with spending time with loved ones cannot be bought.

In a way, it is true that money brings you a form of happiness – the pride of being able to supply beyond your child’s needs. The triumphant feeling of achieving excellent results after spending time and money with extra help. The joy of having a grand wedding to celebrate the union of two hearts. Is this true happiness or just a “bought” illusion of it? While there is no harm in going the extra mile if you can truly afford it, it becomes increasingly vital to not lose sight of the core reason you’re doing it in the first place.

The Never-Ending Chase

When you lose sight of what is most important, it could lead to detriment. Plain-spoken, it could lead to greed. Chasing after objects or occasions that come from monetary value has a huge potential of becoming a norm or a habit. At that stage, what you’ve once thought to be a privilege no longer presents itself as one. Due to the fact that it is “normal”, it becomes expected and that is when you tend to want more.

In a study carried out by a Stanford University psychology professor, Brian Knutson, modern brain-imaging technology was used to associate specific behaviour to different regions of the brain. Among the results that he and his colleagues found was a link between the “pleasure center” area of the brain and the anticipation of hoping to gain something or even making a profit. Simply put, we enjoy making money or receiving things. And when we like doing something, we tend to continue doing it.

This means that breaking the “greedy” habit becomes increasingly difficult; and the scary bit? No one would ever perceive themselves as being greedy. While it is agreeable that monetary assets are important to ensure our survival, we must not lose sight on what is truly important. If not, it becomes a never-ending chase of things we THINK would make us happy.

The Revelation

Money is important. To a certain degree, it has provided all of us with happiness. It is also a necessity to ensure our survival and when we can meet our basic needs, we achieve happiness. Having a simple meal of rice and boiled-egg with soya sauce can be delightful if the whole family is there laughing, telling jokes, and having a good time. It is not what we have that makes us happy but how we make use of them.

To put it bluntly, without money, we will not be able to afford the bare necessities like food and clothing. While you can use less of it, you cannot not live without it. So in reality, money still remains a contributor to our happiness; a contributor, not a defining factor. It is okay having more of it – you just have to remember what the most important things in life are. With just that, you ensure happiness.

This post was written by Suyin Leow & images compiled by Jeremy Chew from iPrice Group.

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