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.

 

Advertisements

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

How to Get Your Way with Customer Service

6980854787_ef6befd9be_z

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.

4 Ways to Cheer Up when You’re Feeling Down

6826211535_0648145350_z

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.

A Tiny Fitness Giraffe

Tep

It’s pretty well agreed upon that exercise boosts your mood. It releases dopamine, and helps you sleep better which all equals feeling better. And who can look at a cute animal without feeling happier, amirite? They even make you more productive at work.

Now a fitness app combines your need for movement with your love of adorable stuff in one happiness generating exercise package called Tep. When you download the app, you’re given a darling (digital) pet giraffe you need to feed and care for – think the Tamagotchi pets of the 90’s. But here’s the catch. In order to earn essentials like food and drink for your little guy, and less essential decorations like hats and footwear (!!!), you’ve got to get moving.

Walking, running, and biking all snag you points you can use to keep the little buddy alive. So next time you think about skipping your workout for some quality Netflix time with your couch, you don’t need to rely on will power alone. If you don’t, your happiness, and your tiny giraffe that’s depending on you will croak.

5 Ways Being Selfish is Actually a Good Thing

7054934595_a8168c68b2_z

In our society (or at least NYC), many people pride themselves on how busy they are. It’s considered a badge of honor to have too.dang.much.to.do. And, I am 1000% guilty of overscheduling myself (even if it’s all with really fun things). The modern lady has work happy hours, ALL the wedding events, social time with friends, and – if that’s the life path she’s chosen, a spouse and kids to fit into the mix. All those responsibilities suck up the precious free time left after work, and can often lead to putting your own needs on the back burner while you run around catering to other people’s – even if you truly enjoy everything you’re doing.

We can all remember a time when we RSVP’d yes to an engagement when we were dead tired and broke just because we love our bestie. Or even when we had managed a few quiet moments to ourselves, FOMO struck and we got up and off the couch.

I came across this post on Mind Body Green explaining why putting yourself first is not only important – but crucial! – to happiness, and I think they’re onto something. Take back some time for yourself, and turn that FOMO into JOMO with these five steps.

  1. Pamper Yourself: Think about it, would you rather give someone you care about a worn-down, tired version of yourself, or the you who has blocked out time to take a nap and go to the gym?
  2. Don’t Volunteer: In other words, wait for someone to ask for your help before throwing yourself into action. Then actually think about it. Do you really have the time, energy and resources? If not, is there some other help you can recommend, and still feel like a good friend?
  3. Take a Time Out: Of course we can all push through a cold, or mild sickness if we’re not on our deathbeds, but should we? Taking a well-timed day off can make you feel better, and act happier, which will have a positive influence on everyone around you.
  4. Do What You Love: Don’t let your schedule be so driving it’s soul sucking. Don’t get stuck in a position you hate. Keep moving towards the things you like.
  5. Work as a Team: Instead of trying to do it all yourself, work with all those great people you’ve surrounded yourself with. Remember that it’s ok, and often beneficial for the project if you have more intelligent minds working on it.

What do you do to make time for yourself when you’re in over your head?

Image by Roman Pfeiffer.

What Story Are You Telling Yourself?

2945254545_ab454ae332_z

I was listening to a podcast the other morning (As friends of mine know, I start sentences like that a lot.). This particular one was about not, “interviewing your child for pain.” Basically, it was saying if you only ask a loved one questions about what went wrong on Tuesday, or call up your friend to see what terrible thing her ex has done now, you’re putting all of your attention on the bad stuff in life (and that’s not good!).

It struck a chord with me.

I can think of hundreds of times when I’ve been at bitchfests with friends where everyone is trashing a certain thing or event or celebrity. Isn’t that what a lot of work happy hours are all about? Complaining as a unit really brings a group together.

And I’ve noticed that when I’m telling stories about dates gone horribly awry, they garner much more attention than when I am describing the really sweet moment when a date was hopping around imitating my favorite Instagram bunny.

It made me think.

If we’re spending so much more time talking about the bad stuff, does it really impact the way we feel? Michael Thompson and Catherine O’Neill Grace say Yes. “We live the story we tell ourselves – and others – about the life we’re leading.”

If that’s the case, don’t we want it to be a happy story? Shouldn’t we be spending more time noticing and talking about the little moments of brightness and joy we encounter in our days?

Then I read an article in the September issue of Marie Claire about a clinical trial to treat PTSD that is using MDMA (the chemical behind ecstasy and ‘Molly’) as a therapy drug. The piece described how it was having success because it let people access old, traumatic memories and reimagine them, interact with them, and put them back away with a different spin. It allowed them to heal and change a moment that already happened to them by changing the way they remembered it.

Studies show that we are hard wired to remember negative events – insults – for longer, and more intensely than our bodies respond to good events. Researchers say it’s due to the chemicals our bodies produce. Cortisol, the stress hormone, sticks around for longer and has a more dramatic impact than oxytocin, our feel-good hormone, that metabolizes more quickly.

If we’re constantly interviewing our friends and family about their heart ache, their bad days, soon they could begin to believe that’s all there is. Be empathetic, and by all means, be there for people who need you, but in day to day life, if we’re defined by what we focus in on, and our memories are changed by examining them in a different light, don’t you want to make sure you’re telling yourself a happy story?

Image by Mark Wathieu