ONE THE COUCH 2 - Happiness and money
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Dr Jennifer Leonard - Counselling Psychologist & psychotherapist
14th April, 20120 Comments
In this series of articles, I talk about how therapy can help as well as looking at Mindfulness, CBT and the new science of Positive Psychology and how these can be used to increase happiness and well-being. This week the focus is on the relationship between happiness and money.
Happiness and money
Do we equate financial abundance with emotional happiness? I know that I have. I’m sure that we’re all aware of stories in the media of the rich and famous who have “made it. They have the cars, the private jets and are surrounded by beautiful people - they are living the dream - yet they feel empty inside, perhaps they feel that they don’t deserve their success or that they are a fraud who will soon to be found out. When this happens and they discover that wealth in and off itself doesn’t bring them happiness, there is nothing left to sustain them (no future hope that one day money and success will make everything alright) and they sink into depression and often turn to alcohol and drugs or sex to blot out the pain.
If money does not bring us happiness, why do we desire it? Taking an evolutionary approach – in the past, as hunter gathers, hoarding things (food, firewood) could mean the difference between life and death. Those that tended to hoard things survived. So genetically we are predisposed to hoarding. Our present behaviour is still influenced by our past and we are still hunter gathers - seeking to accumulate wealth. Many of us however, no longer accumulate to live, but live to accumulate – hooding way beyond our needs…and in this material world we often value wealth over meaning and happiness and see it as a measure of how worthy a person is.
According to Tal Ben-Shahar*, research supports the notion that money in itself does not increase our levels of happiness. Once our basic physical needs (for food, shelter and warmth) are taken care off, additional money does not tend to be linked to an increase in happiness. In fact, we have grown richer over the last 50 yeas yet people have become less happy, with the incidence of anxiety and depression rising. Are we as a planet becoming emotionally bankrupt? Depleted in the currency that really counts with financial considerations take president over emotional well-being.
Money has no intrinsic value. Its worth comes from what we can do with it. For example, it may free us up to live a life that is more meaningful, or it may give us faster access to health services, we can use it to provide water and medicine to poorer countries. We need money to live, but I think that what we need to bring things into balance, placing more emphasis on valuing our emotional life.
What 3 things can you do this week to increase your level of happiness?
What’s the next step?
If you would like to explore having more happiness in your life, then talking to a Chartered Psychologist who is experienced in working with happiness is an effective next step. Multiple research studies support the idea that focusing on what is good in our lives can increase our levels of happiness and well being. Clearly, this is a different approach from talking about our problems were the focus on what’s wrong in our lives. So why not consider taking the next step or keep a look out for a local course!
*Acknowledgements: This article has been influenced by Tal Ben-Shahar’s book “Happier”, Mcgraw-hill professional, 2008.
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