Posts filed under “Psychology”

Stuff Doesn’t Make You Happy . . .

While everyone is busy unwrapping all of their holiday gifts, here’s something to mull over: Stuff doesn’t make you happy.

There has been an ongong thread about this amongst some of the econoblogs, and I think some of the commenters may be missing the main point: The value of wealth isn’t necessarily the THINGS you can acquire, it is the things you can do with it – the experiences and memories that you can "acquire."

Think of it this way: Its the not the TOYS, its the PLAYING.

Now, let’s be honest — I am in no position to lecture anyone about the evils of materialism; Does anyone really need a 500 HP car? How many watches can one person wear? The silk neckties in my closest cost more than the GDP of a small country — please do not take this as a holier than thou finger wagging. I am as guilty as anyone else

No, this is merely a moment of reflection during the holidays of what truly matters, and what actually makes people happy.

In my experience, most of us would get more out of taking an advanced driving course at Skip Barber, where you learn HOW TO DRIVE high performance cars, and wring the most performance out of them — than merely having one. If you still want the F-car, then go get — but drive the shit out of it, join a car club, go on roadtrips — but don’t just leave it in the garage.

Basic psychology suggests we do not have an innate need to accumulate "stuff;" indeed, we were nomadic throughout all but the last 10,000 years or so. How you spend your time — your relationships are a big key to this — will determine how "happy" your life is.


These are just one man’s opinion and experiences . . . However you spend them, do have a Happy Holiday!


Click for larger graphic



UPDATE December 31, 2005  9:56am

Today’s NYT has an article ont hat exact same theme:

"As some of you may have heard, money does not have a very strong relationship to happiness. Indeed, it is unclear whether the two parties are even well acquainted. Yet, according to the renowned British economist Richard Layard, author of "Happiness: Lessons From a New Science" (Penguin, 2005), humans cling to the notion that the two are linked – with a result, Mr. Layard said in an interview, that "people tend to expect more from money than it can give."

That’s not to say being broke is better. One of my favorite quotations in Mr. Layard’s book is credited to Woody Allen: "Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Amen to that. At the same time, Mr. Layard points out that the research on this topic suggests that we would all be a lot happier if we understood the true effect of money on our psyches.

You or I may wish for a more prosperous new year, a big raise, a fat bonus, the wherewithal to buy a bigger home, a nicer car and so forth, but Mr. Layard says that "many studies show that people have an exaggerated forecast of the benefits of having that higher income or bigger house."

As soon as your material position improves, researchers have found, there is a remarkable tendency to adapt. The thrill is gone, as they say. "When we monitor how people are affected by the house or car, it’s not anything like they expected," Mr. Layard said. "Your happiness does go up for a while, then it returns to the base level.

If you think that sounds like a recipe for that chronic not-quite-satisfied feeling, you would be right. People tend to crave more money and more things to restore that peak of good feeling – only to adapt to those pleasures and seek the next high – an addictive phenomenon that economists have called the hedonic treadmill."

Fascinating stuff . . .



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