I confess: I want to be happier than I´m now.
So, I decided to find and take an online course about happiness. I searched the platforms Coursera (https://www.coursera.org/) and edX (https://www.edx.org/). To my surprise I found several couses related directly with happiness.
I chose the course “The Science of Happiness” from the University of California, Berkeley. Why did I chose this course? Well, I´m a college professor so I tend to prefer stuff backup up by scientific studies.
My preference for a course based on scientific research, was a good and bad. On one side, almost everything in the course is settled on scientific studies witch gives it great credibility to the course – no “mambo jambo”. But those “guys” of Berkeley exaggerate with the scientific studies. Almost everything is sustained by scientific studies and, many times, they explain the experience that originated the studies. Which makes the course a bit boring.
One thing is certain: the course, delivered by a team of lecturers coming from Berkeley University, does answer lots of questions related to happiness. Their answers might help us change our behaviour in order to be happier.
One key question is the following: can money buy happiness?
The short answer is: Yes, surely, until a certain amount and if spend in a certain way.
Ok, ok. The reader probably thinks now that the previous answer is too short and simplistic. I will try to give a longer and more detailed answer. Let´s do it in three parts.
I believe that everyone agrees with the first answer. Money certainly is very important, but only until a certain threshold. According to some studies, and in the case of U.S.A. the figure is around 40 000 USD net per person each year. In other countries it could be more or less depending on the cost of living. That amount of money is considered enough to satisfy basic needs such as food, shelter and health.
The issue has less to do with “40.000 dollars” enabling us to buy stuff, which makes us happy. It is more about how this money solves certain crucial questions concerning our survival on a modern society. If you have 40 000 USD, you will not be worried about having enough money to buy food or the medication you need.
The study states that having more than “40.000 dollars is good for happiness but only very marginally. Guys like Bill Gates tend to be just a little happier than those who have just “40.000 dollars”.
Let´s go to the second part of the answer by making a question: what should I buy that will bring me happiness?
If the reader is thinking about simply buying material goods, like cars, clothes and jewelry that it is the wrong reply. Buying things as an end by itself makes us happier for a short period.
What kind of things can you buy that will make us happier? One is to buy experiences (like traveling or going to good restaurants to enjoy a niceso you enjoy those experiences either alone or with other people (even better!). Let´s say the reader buys a new car, a Jeep. Probably you will feel happier for a short period of time. However, If the reader then uses the new car, to do things that you like, such as traveling or racing, that will increase the sensation of happiness.
One thing that will contribute to an increased sensation of happiness, is to have experiences with other people.
For example, if you like to do sailing that is good for your happiness. However, if you do it with other people that will increase your sensation of happiness.
The second thing that we could “buy” with our money is to help people in need.
It could be something small, like buying a meal to someone hungry. Or contributing for a charitywho provides homes for refugees. The possibilities are endless and they make us feel more connected to people around us. That connection contributes as well, to our happiness.
Ok, you have the “40.000 dollars” and you know that buying experiences, particularly experiences thst connect you with other people, will make you happier, according to some scholars from Berkeley University. However, there is a third part of the answer to the question: can money buy happiness?
Well, it is really important to diversify a little the experiences and ways of helping people. Why? Because of the psychological phenomena called hedonistic adaptation. Taking a coffee with friends can be very good for our happiness. However, the effect will tend to be smaller with repetition. However, if we engage in different experiences with different people, the hedonistic adaptation will tend to be smaller or even not to happen.
Yes, money can help us to be happier. That is true, particularly if we spend it wisely.
Ivo Dias de Sousa is a Portuguese writer born in Mozambique. Ivo is also a Professor at Universidade Aberta, Portugal, giving courses on information management. Currently, Ivo is interested in using his experience on information management to construct applications (see http://windit-app.com/ ) for smartphones, in collaboration with others. Ivo holds a Master in Statistics and Information Management (Universidade Nova de Lisboa) and a Ph.D. in Information Management (Universidade Aberta). Amongst his main interests are information management, psychology of luck and literature.