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Since happiness is a unique experience, the factors that promote happiness can of course be different for everyone. However, scientific research in the last 20 years has come a long way to identify many common factors that contribute to our happiness. Money (or income) is one of them. When we encounter the questions if feeling happy is related with money or not, some will use their opt in favour of money. However, the others, including me, claim money has a tiny role and comes not in the leading positions when compared with other effects. In its simplest form, we can say: Yes, money is affecting our happiness. However, after this sentence, I can add a sentence that starts with “but’’.
What dimension of happiness is affected by money? There are many answers to this question. Because different theories and different disciplines (such as psychology, economy) can define in different ways. However, there is a general definition that is now accepted in the field of psychology. In fact, if we look at the dimensions of happiness rather than definition, we can better understand this concept.
How it works
Happiness is a concept with both emotional and cognitive dimensions. Emotionally feeling good means experiencing positive emotions frequently rather than experiencing negative emotions less often. Some experts define this as emotional balance. In the cognitive sense, happiness reflects the person’s perception of his / her life as satisfying. Many studies show that emotional and cognitive aspects of happiness can be affected by different factors. Money is one of these factors. For example, the monthly income of a person is important for life satisfaction and does not show a meaningful relationship with the emotional dimension of happiness. So as our income increases, we are beginning to perceive our lives as more satisfying. However, increasing income does not affect our daily emotional state much. Therefore, it may be important to know in what sense our income makes us happy.
If the quantity of money increases, does your level of happiness also increase? The answer to this question can be summarized as follows: While more money does not bring happiness, little money can make you feel emotionally worse. Therefore, making less money than a certain income level can reduce our quality of life. On the other hand, excess money after reaching a certain economic standard can increase our life satisfaction. The surplus money that comes after reaching a certain economic standard may not be emotionally happy. For example, in a study conducted by Kahneman and Deaton in 2010, it was seen that the winners of more than US $ 75,000 a year in the US compared to the winners of 75,000 US Dollars and the winners above this figure were not happier, or rather, their daily emotional states did not change.
In fact, the main point here is that if our earnings are enough to capture the living standards of our own, then this encourages us to feel good. However, gaining more than this income does not give us any extra happiness. In other words, I would not be very happy if I made so much money, it might not be meaningful to make guesses. Connecting our happiness to money may leave us completely powerless. Because when we get it and catch it, we feel happy but then we start searching for more.
Why is earning a lot of money problem for happiness? After a certain level of income (I said this is an average of $ 75,000 a year for America), there are a few reasons why money doesn’t make us happy in the emotional sense after a certain amount of money. One of these is that when people earn more money, people start to feel less gratitude for small things. There are also researches that support the fact that people can not really be happy with some tiny things as they earn more money. Another reason is that as income increases, people stop doing activities that will make them feel good in everyday life. For example, people with high incomes spend more time on working, shopping, child care or other obligatory jobs than being interested in socializing or hobbies or leisure activities that make them feel good. This can restrict their happiness.
How would spending money make us happy? Not having enough money is enough for a good life. The relationship between money and happiness is that a high income contributes to our happiness only when we spend it for those who need it or to buy gifts for our loved ones. For example, in a series of research by Professor Dunn and his friends, it shows that when university students spend about $ 10 or $ 20 of money to buy something for someone else, they feel better than spending time for themselves. Other studies show that they feel better when they use a certain amount of money given to them to experience experiences such as traveling or a little trip. His research in many rich and poor countries also shows that person is happier when almost everyone pays his / her money to a charity. Briefly, research tells us how our use of money is effective in our happiness.
Well, why do we choose to spend money for an article if it makes us happier to spend money for an experience or for someone else? One of the reasons for this is that our experiences are temporary and we think that what we buy is more permanent. For example, instead of spending money to go on a concert or a trip, we can choose to buy a new television which we think will be more permanent. So again, we can make mistakes when guessing what makes us happy.
Of course the outcome is not to spend our money for others and not to spend money. It is important for our happiness and life satisfaction to meet our own needs. It may not make sense to give our money to others in debt. I’ll talk about the details of the debt in the future.
Does it really make you happy to have something new? As I said, we’re pretty bad at predicting what makes us happy. We think we will be very happy when we have a new phone. So when our happiness increases with a new event, situation or something that we just have, we get used to the good feelings that we have experienced, and after a while we return to our old happiness level. Therefore, a new dress we bought brings a short time of happiness, and after a few days or even a few hours, we realize that we are not so happy or that our happiness lasts shorter than we expected.
Experiences are not like that. When we have a trip, a concert or a cinema experience, these experiences can help us to meet our psychological needs and make us feel better for longer. Because experiences are usually things we share with others, which brings us closer to others. We know that this kind of interpersonal relations has an important place in our happiness. Meeting the need for bonding with others is an experience that makes us feel good. This does not mean that the things we buy will not make us happy or give up on doing so. In fact, it is important to know that we are going to make a mistake when we guess what makes us happy. Moreover, we must be aware that our happiness may not be so long when we have something we desire, and that we may be disappointed that we are not happy again after we have reached the things we have been connected.
Does saving money make you happy? Our debts have a negative impact on our happiness. On the other hand, having an accumulation to keep us safe in the economic sense can contribute to our happiness. In fact, the debt causes conflicts in marriage and therefore negatively affects the happiness of couples. The negativity of being indebted has a stronger impact than the happiness of our experience. In other words, it may not make us happy to take a trip in debt and borrow again; The stress of debt can be more effective than the beauty of our experiences.
How accurate is it to compare ourselves with others? Another important factor in the relationship between money and happiness is relative income. Many people prefer to compare their earnings with the earnings of those around them (usually their peers). This situation, which is frequently seen especially among white-collar people, is not very useful. Research shows that the happiness of the group or the person we are comparing decreases as our income increases. But this is not always valid for everyone. For example, when comparing income in the early part of working life has a positive effect, a similar comparison in later times may adversely affect happiness. People’s income comparison with others at a young age and in their careers may be positive in terms of predicting their future earnings and increasing their motivation. However, the comparison of income after coming to a certain position may adversely affect happiness as it may lead to negative thoughts about the future.
On the other hand, according to the results of our research, it is better to see that our income is much more than one of our level (or our peers in general), especially in terms of career. However, social comparisons often rebound and leave a negative impact. Therefore, I cannot say that economic comparisons are very healthy.
Furthermore, your income from the past, your income today and the income you expect in the future can be quite important when looking at the relationship between money and happiness. Now it’s better to win more than we did in the past. I already mentioned above how the comparison affects happiness. If we are going to make us happy, we will be able to accept this idea even if we know that we won’t earn 8 billion a month. So even if it is not rational, we can hold onto a thought that makes us happy. For example, it is quite useful to appreciate what we have in economic terms and to remind them often. A materialist lifestyle may have negative consequences for psychological health. For example, when we look at America, people have more things (more cars or electronic goods per capita) compared to 50 years ago, but are they happier in the last 50 years? No. There is even the fact that they owe more. Especially nowadays it is quite natural to have more things to shop, to have more things and to take part in consumer culture. People may need it. However, it can affect our quality of life and relations badly. The life satisfaction of the people who make the habit of looking for riches decreases and they are less happy during the day.
In short, I can say that constantly thinking of making more money and looking for wealth, wishing to have more make us unhappy. Money is always a need but only enough to lead a good life. However, some people have different thoughts on this subject and these thoughts are actually confusing. For example, some say that expecting an increase in our financial situation has a positive impact on both general life satisfaction and economic satisfaction. So in the future – compared to today – we expect to be in a good economic situation, in other words, it is good to think optimistically about it. The financial situation that individuals think that they will have in the present and in the future contributes to their happiness. Another thing is that if there is an unexpected positive change in our income, our life satisfaction increases but in case of an unexpected negative change in our income, our life satisfaction is adversely affected. In other words, if we make an expectation error about our future financial expectations, this affects our life satisfaction badly.
What about comparing wealthy and prosperous countries with poor ones? I think that welfare countries are happier. Developed countries like Denmark, Finland, Norway and Canada are the happiest countries. Poor African countries appear to be at the end of the list. However, it should be kept in mind that the average levels of happiness in the country are taken into account. So there are unhappy people in rich countries, happy people in poor countries. In addition, while thinking about this issue in the framework of the above, it would be appropriate to make an evaluation. If we look at countries, the average income level is important for happiness and life satisfaction. But income, or money, is not enough to explain the difference in happiness between countries. In addition to income, factors such as democracy, social rights, human rights, security and trust are important factors in the level of general happiness of the countries.
As a consequence, the relationship between money and happiness is not that simple. Yes, money makes a sense of happiness, but there are many factors that prevent or allow it. Therefore, it is not quite right to make a comment without taking into account the circumstances and conditions. I believe that we can encourage our happiness for what we have. Because we know that we adapt to almost every situation. When we get a success, we are happy when we buy an item we want; but after a while we get used to it and we can return to our old level of happiness again. But it is also possible to slow down this harmony, or to be more realistic.
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