|If happiness was a tangible thing
which could be stored in warehouses and sold in markets, then one could
buy it, but it is intangible; a feeling which lacks an agreed- upon definition.
People from different walks of life view it differently. In the simplest
terms, it is the feeling and state of mind characterized by emotions ranging
from joy to contentment, but a philosopher and a religious scholar will
not find it the same thing. A psychologist will come up with a different
set of technical words, and an economist will seek the support of entirely
different jargon to describe his views. Ask the man in the street and he
will tell you that happiness is not something to define, it is to experience.
When Money Makes You Happy
But we all know that money makes us happy. For example, it is obvious that we will be happier if we win the lottery over something awful happening to us, such as losing a limb. Yet staggering results from Positive Psychology experiments show that even when comparing the impact on our happiness of winning millions compared to losing a limb, we are completely mistaken. Experiments have shown that within two years after these two major life events there is no difference in happiness on average between people in these two groups.
Short Term Happiness
One of the reasons that money does not make us happy is because of a principle called hedonic adaption. This is the process by which something good has less and less of a positive impact on us over time, simply because we get used to it and start to take it for granted. If you have ever bought a brand new car, you will remember the moment when you first stepped inside it. You felt excited and happy. The second time you drove it, you still got a buzz but by the 100th journey the novelty has worn off.
Happiness is one of the illusive promises of money, it gives you more pleasures but it does not bring the real happiness that you are looking for. Because life does not work that way, you can never put a price tag on happiness. It is not about what you bring into the table, but how you make the most of what you have at the moment.
Giving Money For Happiness
The concept of giving away to the poor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and helping the needy is not new. Almost every religion advises its followers to practice these noble deeds as they learn the meaning of abundant life. In return, the followers or believers are promised certain spiritual returns. However, the act of spending on others is not limited only to believers. Even non-believers feel happy helping others, although there are some people who do not like to help their fellow humans, because they believe that every person should take care of his needs himself. They believe that his negligence and laziness must not be compensated for by the hard work of others. Some people also admit that spending on other members of the world, its animals and plants, etc, is a source of extracting happiness, and they experience this by donating to charities working for the welfare of animals or the planet.
However, the link between the act of giving away and feeling happy is not easy to discover. The opposite action of giving away can be taking in or collecting things. Where does it lead us? Can increasing the number of possessions boost our feeling of happiness?
Owning More Does Not Make You Happy
Look at this matter the other way around and you find the paradox. Whatever we possess seems to possess us. Ownership in general may look like a one-sided relationship, but actually it is not. The object which belongs to us also owns us. If my car is stolen and used in a crime, I can be answerable for it to the police. Thus, the nature of this relationship is mutual. Every single object we own requires a relative amount of responsibility, which takes its slice from our freedom. As the number of our possessions increases, the degree of our freedom decreases. As we become engrossed and caught up in such a world, we become the slave of the world and the system of things. How can a slave, who is deprived of all his liberties and rights, be a happy person?
The problem might not be with the sense of ownership, but rather with the wrong perception of it. While talking about our life partners, for example, we say "my wife" or "my husband." Here lies another paradox. Is my wife really mine? If she is really mine then nothing, including death, can take her away from me, but it does not happen. People love each other, marry, and then the day arrives when they say "goodbye" to each other. While being married, one can say "his wife" or "her husband," but in real terms it only means that our partner is with us for a certain period of time, and during this time he or she has his or her own individuality and personality. Thus, my wife can not be fully and indefinitely mine. The same applies to other earthly things. We overly extend the concept of ownership and attach ourselves to unnecessary things and invisible bonds, which steal away our freedom.
By giving away, one can deduce, we actually lighten our loads. Materialistic things weigh us down. They add additional stress. Giving them away decreases pressure and allows freedom, hence we acquire happiness. Karl Rabeder observed the same thing. When asked how he felt after making his decision, he replied, "I am feeling light, opposite of heavy!"
You Don't Need Much To Be Happy
We can be happy with what we have even without achieving financial success. We need very little, in fact, to make us happy, because it comes from within us, and it actually costs us nothing. What we strive to get can never make us happy. As the rift between what we have and what we don't have widens, so the amount of our suffering increases. Therefore we must try to be happy with the simple things of life, and ease our mind-burden.
Money should never be the most important thing in life. It can however enhance your life if you spend it properly. Above all, your happiness depends on what are you doing with your money. Do you spend it on things that increase your overall well-being? Although newly acquired things bring you joy for a moment, this happiness gets lost in time because you quickly get accustomed to them.
Therefore, if you spend your money on your relationships with partners, family and friends, your health and unforgettable moments, money can make your life truly happy.
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