You’ve always loved shopping; the experience of going out, spending some money on clothes to look better or on a new gadget has always lifted your mood. It has always worked after bad day or a sad event. And it doesn’t work just for you – it’s a trick that many of us use to get some immediate satisfaction. And it’s fine. After a bad day – or week or month -, we feel the need to feel better immediately; we want something quick that can lift our spirit, whatever it is. The trouble with this, and you may have noticed, is that it doesn’t last much. It makes a peak while it is happening and starts decreasing shortly afterwards. In a graph, it would look something like this:

Can money or possessions make us happy?

Certainly. We can’t say that money is not important to happiness, if not, ask anyone who doesn’t have it. However, research suggests that having a higher income does affect happiness, but only up to a point. What’s more important is how you use that money. Plenty of evidence shows that money spent on experiences rather than on possessions, bring more happiness – the memories of the experience last longer, while the initial excitement of buying material goods fades quite quickly. Also, research suggests that money spent on others makes us happy. In part, this is because social relationships are an important ingredient to happiness, so if we spend our money on others in a way that foster relationships, so much better (two birds with one stone).

We can’t say that money is not important to happiness, if not, ask anyone who doesn’t have it. Share on X

Buying your own house, especially if it is your first one, will give you the satisfaction derived from accomplishing goals and will surely boost your personal sense of worth, but those nice feelings will soon disappear if you are alone and the house is silent and empty. If, instead, you use your new possession to invite friends over and have good times with people you like, then you are turning your house into a source of good experiences and a way to cultivate your relationships. This is the key to happiness.

Use your new possession to turn it into an experience

Spending money on others

Drawing again on evidence and research, this time by psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, 50% of our happiness is genetic, that’s why there are people who are just naturally happy. By contrast, life events and circumstances – we could include here our income level – accounts for only 10% of it. The final 40% relies on “intentional activities”, i.e., things that we can do and control. In this respect, it has been proven that being kind and generous makes us happy. Michael Norton, of Harvard Business School, explains how spending money on others boosts our happiness level: “we see spending on other people has a bigger return for you than spending on yourself. So if you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right. The implication isn’t you should buy this product instead of that product, and that’s the way to make yourself happier.”

Kindness is the route

You can see now how Kindness helps Happiness. If not, try to remember a moment when you did something for others. It could be charitable giving or helping someone in need, but it can also be something that you may consider smaller, like listening to somebody with real attention. Remember how you felt when you looked into the other person’s eyes and saw gratitude. In several experiments, people reported higher levels of happiness after doing a random act of kindness.

continue to part 2