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  • Christy George, LMFT

Happiness for Sale

money, happiness, love

Can money buy happiness? Is happiness for sale? What is happiness anyway? Is it being content? Is it feeling secure? Is it feeling free from worry? Good questions, right?

Before we can determine if money can buy happiness, we should define happiness in the most rudimentary terms possible, even though the experience of happiness is entirely individual and varies from person to person. In American culture, there is a general belief that people can and should be able to exist in a state of happiness that goes beyond the basic, and sometimes fleeting emotion. This idea is more than the emotion we feel when delighted by an experience. Basically, it is an sentiment that we are entitled to live in a state of contentment, security, feeling satisfied with life, and free from overwhelming negative emotions or struggle.

If we accept happiness as defined above, for the purpose of discussion, we can critically question the role money plays in finding this type of “happiness”. Certainly one feels safer, less stressed and satisfied if their basic needs of food, shelter, and access to health care are met. If one is struggling to survive, it is difficult to be concerned with anything else. The realities of poverty can be devastating, and many agree having enough money to rise above mere survival dramatically improves the quality of life. Beyond that, how much does money matter? How much is enough? Does more money come with it’s own problems? Many say, “yes”. Some people spend their lives accumulating wealth in the pursuit of happiness, only to discover they still feel stressed, unsatisfied, unsafe and unhappy. New pressures, responsibilities and expectations come with having more, none of which have anything to do with happiness at all.

Many other cultures do not share the American belief or expectation of overall happiness, and find it odd Americans value it so much. It has been both my experience and observation, viewing happiness as a state of being, rather than an emotion can cause undue anxiety, pressure and dissatisfaction in life. This, coupled with the idea that if we have more money we will be happier, can actually lead to dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It’s like chasing a rainbow. You see a beautiful thing, and anticipate a pot of gold at the end, but can never quite reach it, potentially making yourself miserable in the process. No one ever tells us this when they are pushing us to “succeed”.

So how can a person reach the end of the rainbow anyway? Of course each person’s journey is different, but there are some things that can help, and have nothing to do with how much cash we have in our pockets. Here are some things I have seen work for people:

1.Feel satisfaction and contentment in the present moment. Focusing on the past and/or future can create undue stress, anxiety and misery.

2.Accept nothing is permanent. We go through constant cycles in life. If we are able to see this, we can better appreciate the present. It is good to be able to see life isn’t always a party. We have good times. We have hard times. We have much in between, and can find satisfaction and contentment in all of these moments with the knowledge and appreciation the moments are fleeting and have value.

3.Know that everyone suffers, and it is as much a part of life as not suffering. This was a difficult concept for me to accept because suffering is unpleasant and, like many others I wanted happiness all of the time. I found understanding that suffering is part of our experience of living; we are not alone in it; and it will not last forever, helped me to more deeply appreciate good times, recognize my own strength in surviving hardship and have confidence that I handle whatever is in front of me.

4. Realizing happiness as a state of being is an illusion. It isn’t real. Happiness is an emotion. It will come and go like all of the other feelings. It gives us important information and is important to notice and enjoy it when it presents. It is a gift.

5.Seek out authentically positive people, expediences and ways of looking at life whenever possible.

6.It can also feel goo to help others, who need and want help.

Many people have been misled to believe we can achieve a constant state of bliss, and if we don’t we’re failures. This isn’t true, and isn’t possible. A healthy alternative is seeking balance and harmony in life. If accumulating stuff and status is not satisfying, you’re on to something. There is more. If you need help finding your own moments of joy, you should contact an experienced professional.

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