Does Money Buy Happiness?
by Dr. Gayla Swihart DeHart
According to researchers (footnote, E.g., Martin Seligman, Daniel Kahneman, Ed
Deiner), money buys happiness only to a very limited extent. Not having money-
that is, a family income of less than 30,000- is related to less happiness, but
once your basic needs are being met, the increase in happiness from say, $31,000
to $131,000 is really not that great! Hard to believe, isn't it? Think of all
the time and energy we spend trying to attain more money- and it really doesn't
make that big of a difference! The United States is a very rich country, but the
overall level of happiness there is lower than in many poorer countries. So, the
question is, if money can't buy happiness, what can? Things that are hard to
Here are some tips for improving your feelings of happiness and well-being:
1. Develop a strong social support network. Call your family members regularly.
Make time to call and see your friends. Get involved in your community- coach a
team, volunteer for a charity drive. Get to know your neighbors.
2. Acts of kindness - random or otherwise. Do these regularly. Hold the door
open for someone. Add change to someone's parking meter. Drop off a meal for a
family who is dealing with an illness. There are an infinite number of things
that we can do for others every day, at little cost to ourselves, but with great
3. Regularly write down the things that you are grateful for. Have a special
place for this- a journal perhaps- and write down the top five things, small or
large, that you are grateful for. Do this at least one time per week.
4. Eat well and exercise consistently. Just like your mother told you- lots of
dark green and bright orange vegetables, at least 8 glasses of water per day,
stay away from processed or fried foods, and eat sweet stuff only in moderation.
Exercise does not have to be rigorous, but it should be consistent. Try to do at
least 20 minutes of cardio 4-5 times per week. Park farther from the entrance,
take the stairs. Every little bit helps.
5. Have tools for coping with stress. Learn relaxation techniques. Have a
stress-free zone (either in your home or in nature) where it is easy for you to
relax. Take a bubble bath. Call a friend. Do yoga. Develop several tools that
work for you and use them regularly. In fact, don't wait until you are stressed-
you will get stressed less often this way. Also, remember that caffeine is
stress is a cup.
6. Enjoy momentary pleasures. Stop and smell the roses. Seriously. When you see
a flower, don't walk on by. Stop. Look at its beauty. Smell it, and enjoy. When
you go for a massage, don't think about all the things you have to do after,
just focus on how nice it feels to be pampered at that moment.
7. Do new things. Try a new sport, go to the theatre, go somewhere new for your
summer holidays. Read a new kind of book, eat at a different restaurant, try
listening to a different kind of music. We get habituated to the familiar- note
the difference between the excitement you feel the first time you experience
something new and the fifth time you experience it.
8. Forgive people who have wronged you. You don't have to forget, just forgive.
It takes a lot of energy hanging onto grudges and bad feelings. Think of all the
happy things you could so with all that freed up energy!
9. Learn how to be more optimistic. Yes, you can learn how. You need to pay
careful attention to your thoughts so you can inspect them and refute the ones
that aren't working for you. This takes practice, and don't be afraid to ask for
help with this one.
10. Get a coach to help you implement systematic (and fun) strategies for
improving your happiness and well-being.
It is widely agreed that there is a natural set-point range within which our
happiness levels are likely to fall, and this is unique for each of us. But with
knowledge and practice, we are able to ensure that we spend most of our time at
the uppermost limits of our happiness range. Courses and coaching are available
and measurable results have been proven to work. Go to www.get- happier.com for
more information on a teleclass series (you just have to get on the phone) that
can help you increase get happier immediately.
Dr. Gayla Swihart DeHart, from Vancouver, Canada, is a Professional Coach with a
Ph.D. in Psychology. She helps busy professionals manage stress, improve
goal-setting and follow-through, develop emotional intelligence, and increase
life and work satisfaction. More information on Dr. DeHart and her services can
be found at www.AchieveExcellence.ca.