What makes us happy? Many people have distinct attitudes of what makes them ‘happy’. Countless are quick to associate money with happiness. However, can we really define our happiness by the amount of money we have?
A 2010 study from Princeton University reported that people felt an increase in happiness when their incomes rose to $75,000 a year. But, this is not a simple cure for the blues. Many people find happiness in the most simplistic things, regardless of their annual income or number of possessions.
Psychologists Shigehiro Oishi and Ed Diener found that the overall happiness was greater in wealthier countries than poorer countries. Nevertheless, people from poorer countries view their lives as more meaningful. We often believe that money will insatiably fill some void that is taking over our lives. Americans are a power driven, money-oriented race, and this mindset has sunken into our culture.
True well-being is the sum of positive and negative feelings that develop when we reflect on our lives. The most rewarding experiences in life are admired because they favor hardship that blossoms into growth rather than a simple material item, like a new house or a new car.
While wealth may promote happiness, there does not appear to be any meaning in the things that money can provide. A greater percentage of people from poverty-stricken countries such as Chad and Ethiopia voiced that their lives were full of meaning rather than of wealthier countries such as France and Spain. Their lives are more meaningful because they value specifically what little they have, while wealthier people take their fortune for granted.
In fact, poorer people are more likely to correlate their lives with religion. Religion brings people faith and hope like no amount of clothes or shoes can. Religion provides a sense of purpose and commitment to serving and helping others, which in a way lets people feel like they are contributing to the betterment of society and can look forward to eternal life after death.
‘Happier’ people may feel satisfied with their lives at the moment, like being in good health and being able to afford what they need without economic strain. However, people who feel their lives are meaningful can look back on their lives as a whole and know that they have experienced fulfilling social relationships, engaged in charitable acts, and overcome their most difficult obstacles.
While I do believe that money may contribute to some form of happiness, by being able to afford certain luxuries and enjoying life, true happiness is not symbolized by green paper or gold coins at all. It is measured by how you live your life with those around you and appreciate what you have.
By: JoAnna Palumbo’19, Arts and Entertainment Editor