Can Money Buy Happiness?

Can money buy happiness?The rote answer – or old adage – is, “No.” Wealth does not equal bliss.

After a certain point, that is. Anyone who has tried to do without much of it knows that money is important. It gives you access to the things you need to survive (read: food, clothes, heat), and freedom to escape bad situations (read: health problems, an abusive partner, a job you hate).

Having it may not automatically guarantee a joy-filled existence, but not having it can certainly make your life difficult. Indeed, broadly speaking, people who have money are happier than those who struggle to get by.

But it’s not quite so simple as this. Obviously money must have some perks, or we wouldn’t work such long hours to get it every day. Yet, as Dan Gilbert, professor at Harvard and author of Stumbling on Happiness says, “Once you get basic human needs met, a lot more money doesn’t make a lot more happiness.” For several reasons:

  • Humans are adaptable. That promotion that seems life-changing when you receive it quickly becomes the new normal.
  • More money can bring more stress – in the form of extra responsibility or a longer commute to your fancy home.
  • There is always someone richer than you, and that comparison is a happiness killer.

So how much is enough? The magic yearly income seems to be $75,000 on average, after which emotional well-being improvements drop off. Though it varies by major metropolitan area. Residents of NYC, Philadelphia, LA, and Seattle hit peak happiness at $105,000, while people in the windy city reach it at $54,000. If you’re lucky enough to live in Atlanta, you can reach that goal at $42,000.

If you’ve already attained it (or that’s far from a realistic goal for you), here’s how to make the most of what you’ve got.

  • Buy experiences instead of things. The pleasure of a day trip is much longer lasting than a new top, which quickly becomes an old, unloved top clogging up your closet.
  • Get off the hedonic treadmill. Instead of buying new things, stop adapting to what you have. Learn to appreciate your things anew by swapping pictures on a wall, or depriving yourself of a possession for a certain period.
  • Give it away. Even a small amount donated to a cause you value can lift spirits.
  • Spend it on making your life easier. Outsource tasks you hate – like mowing the lawn – to someone else, and the windfall time you save can boost your happiness.

Now, don’t you feel better already?

Image by Burst.

 

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22 Ways Cats Make People Happier (And Healthier)!

This guest post (and amazing infographic) was written by Emily of Catological. Pop over and check it out!

If you’re like me (or any human on the planet, really), you’ve probably had some negative thoughts creep into your mind about why things are going poorly, or why someone was mean to you, or why you aren’t living the life you always dreamed of yet.

Negativity can creep into even the sunniest minds, darkening your day like an overbearing cloud.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have something to fall back on when you’re in a mood like this? Something that you could count on to make you feel better?

Well, I don’t know how to tell this to you, but something like this already exists.

Cats!

Yes, seriously. Cats are insanely good at solving our problems, and have been scientifically proven to make our lives happier and healthier.

From helping us recover from negative moods, to relieving stress, cats can turn our frowns upside down. Plus, you get the added benefit of lower chances of heart disease and other horrible health-related maladies.

We started looking for some information to back up these findings, and stumbled across more and more reasons why cats are actually super healthy for you physically and emotionally.

At the end of the day, we came away with 22 ways cats help make us happier and healthier, all of which you can see in the infographic below, or by visiting the original post here, where we include sources and a bit more explanation for each point.

So, want to make things less crappy? Get a cat!

Ways Cats Make Humans Happier

I Hate Me Some [Fill in the Blank]

verbal fadEvery now and again there’s a verbal fad that really grates on my nerves (see butthurt).

Everything “AF”? I love that enthusiasm. All the feels for “low-key ____”? Sure. It’s fun.

But lately, everyone is saying and posting, “Love me some [fill in the blank].” And it drives me nuts.

It adds SO many unnecessary words, when you could just be saying, “I love puppies.” Or marshmallows. Or whatever strikes your fancy.

It co-opts a dialect from the South and Appalachian, where most of the people I see using it just.aren’t.from. Which, just sounds odd when it’s not a person’s typical way of speaking.

I didn’t want to blame Toni Braxton, and her 1997 hit I Love Me Some Him because, let’s be honest, anyone listening to Toni should be playing Unbreak My Heart or Let It Flow.

And then.

I found this article, that credits Toni as the original snowclone creator. The Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack will never be the same for me again.

What do you think? Do you say, “Love me some ……”?

Image by Prawny.

How to Get Your Way with Customer Service

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As anyone who has worked in the service industry will tell you, you aren’t going to get anywhere by being mean to your sales person/bartender/customer service/airline representative. There are things they can do to help you – when they’re on your side – but when you turn them against you, consider your ship sunk. Nothing will make them get the kitchen to rush your food, or shift things around to fit you on that flight. Even though any good customer service representative will tell you they are doing everything in their power, if you yelled at them, they’re probably not.

With this as my rule of thumb, I’ve managed to get my food and get out the door when the kitchen is slammed, return pairs of boots that are over a year old, and get upgraded to first class on “sold-out” flights. Here’s how.

Use a friendly tone. If you’re really pissed, they will hear it in your voice, even on the phone. Take a few deep breathes, force a smile on your face, and then talk.

Be on the same team. Start by empathizing with the person who needs to help you. If bad weather threw your travel plans off course, I lead in with, “I know you’ve had a million people calling you, trying to change their flights.”

Make your case. Have a logical reason why you need the change you’re asking for. Will your friend be stranded at your destination because the rental car is in your name? Are you going to miss the wedding if you don’t get there sooner? Customer service representatives are people too. Try to pull on their heart strings a little bit.

But keep it short. They don’t need a 20 minute sob story. Summarize your spiel in a couple sentences.

Come with a plan. If you’re looking to be rebooked on a flight, research the options that are available online. Give them the flight number you want. Tell them you see that seats are available online. Ask them to give you one of those. If you’re trying to make a long-shot return, make sure you have your receipt ready, and the item you’d like for an exchange in hand. If you give them a solution, they’re much more likely to just go ahead and use it to get you out of their hair.

Be persistent. Offer to fly into or out of a different airport. In bigger cities, there are often options in another close location. Ask the same question, multiple times. If they say, “I can’t upgrade you to first class.” You say, “Other airlines have done this for me in the same situation.” If they say, “There is no connecting flight.” You say, “Can you look into other options out of that city on your partner airlines?” If they say, “There are no flights.” Hang up, call back, and try again. Sometimes just getting a new, more empathetic person will be enough to get your way.

Use a little humor. Joke that your friends are so hangry you’re worried for your safety. People are more willing to help you when you make them laugh.

Say thank you. Say it early, and often. Tell them you really appreciate them trying. You’re thankful they’re investigating other options. They are making your life by helping you out. If you’re already expressing gratitude before the job is done, they feel more obligated to give you a good outcome.

Say it again. Then, when they’ve finally caved and given you your way, thank them again and get outta there fast before they can change their minds!

Image by Petras Gagilas.

Animal Friends

It’s always said that dogs are man’s best friend. And while I whole-heartedly agree, this week, it seems that they are all-species’ best friend. First I came across Pumpkin the raccoon. Her owners found her as a little baby when she fell out of a tree. They kept her alive, and she bonded with their two rescue dogs. Now she thinks she’s part of the family, just like the other Royal Bahamian Potcake pups.

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Then, I see Kumbali, the baby cheetah becoming new BFFL with Kago. Apparently large cats in captivity have problems with anxiety, and a little dog friend can help calm them down.

It’s just too much cute to handle!

Links!

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Here’s what I’ve been reading on the internet lately.

My immediate post-college career would have been so much easier if this existed already. I wish every office had them.

YES to Elizabeth Warren. “Fifty years later, violence against African Americans has not disappeared.”

No wonder it feels like money goes so quickly round these parts. New York gets only $86.73 of $100.

If I was going to get a tattoo, it would be one of these gorgeous works of art.

Illustrations of celebrities and their younger selves, side-by-side.

This app would really cut down on the amount of pepper spray we might need to buy.

Turns out, the internet doesn’t make us isolated and lonely. Hooray!

How exercise makes us happier.

Finally! Thank you, Australia, for setting a good example.

My new hobby for when I retire.

4 Ways to Cheer Up when You’re Feeling Down

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There are lots of lists on the internet about how to be happier. And when you’re stuck in a funk, they can seem like a load of crap. But these four rituals from Time are backed by neuroscience (read: people who study your brain have shown they help). Next time you’re feeling blue, pull out these tricks, and try them for yourself. The worst that can happen is you’ll still be in a bad mood at the end, right?

  1. What are you grateful for? It can be hard to break the cycle of negative thoughts because guilt, shame, and worry activate the reward center. But when you think about things you’re thankful to have in your life (even if it’s the last thing you want to do), it releases serotonin in the same way. Even trying to find something you appreciate can help, for those times you can’t land on an answer.
  2. What exactly are you feeling? Giving your generalized yuck a name can reduce the emotion’s impact on your mood. Are you sad? Or anxious? Thinking about how you are feeling, instead of ignoring it and pretending everything is fine, reduces the intensity of the emotion you’re experiencing, so you feel less sad, less anxious once you’ve given it a label.
  3. Just decide already. Even making the good-enough choice instead of the best possible one in the world stops your brain from spinning like a top and gives you a little peace. Actively choosing to do something, to take action towards a goal also boosts your serotonin.
  4. Reach out and touch somebody. When you don’t feel love and acceptance from the people around you, it can by physically painful. The easiest way to feel connected to your fellow humans is a pat on the back, a handshake, or a hug – physical contact. Human touch makes you more persuasive, improves team performance, improves flirting (and math skills!), and reduces pain. Don’t have anyone to hug? A massage will do. Can’t afford that? Call someone and talk – it makes your body feel better in a way that texting just can’t do.

Still glum and gloomy? Check out The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, Ph.D., the man whose research is behind the original article.

Image by 8 Kome.