The pursuit of happiness

My thesis statement is Earning money is an important component of happiness because it helps people lead a comfortable life, have a better access for education, and it helps people help others.

Please make sure you take note of key due dates for this assignment:
Thesis draft due 11/8
Prewriting, outline and typed rough draft due 11/20 (instructor will return this draft completed by 11/26)
Revised draft for Peer Review due 11/30 (During the week of 11/30, students will complete the Peer Review with their assigned partners)
Peer Review must be completed by 12/4
Final Revised Paper due 12/14

Essay#2 Outline
I. Introduction (focus on pathos)
A. Attention Grabber
B. Establish rapport with the intended audience
C. Provide context
D. Add directly stated thesis: Topic/Stance…Claims
II. Body
Topic sentence for first claim, including topic/stance and claim A
Draft the following, in the order that works best for your writing style:
Weave in your own points
Add support/research
Synthesize support/research
III. Body (add your strongest argument last)
Topic sentence for first claim, including topic/stance and claim B
Draft the following, in the order that works best for your writing style:
Weave in your own points
Add support/research
Synthesize support/research
IV. Body – Repeat as in II. and III. if you have a C claim
V. Conclusion
Re-establish rapport with the intended audience
Sum up your main arguments/restate your thesis
Important outlining notes:
I. Main section
A. Major detail
i. Minor detail
1. Minor, minor detail

For this assignment, you are going to present your ideas about “the pursuit of happiness” in relation to your own life. Think about what you have read or watched; the conversations you’ve had with your classmates; the attitudes you discovered from the survey your class conducted; the discussion by Gen Kelsang Nyema, the Buddhist nun (6.17); and the thoughts of Rashmi, the graduate student from Sri Lanka (6.14).

Audience. In this project, you read articles from the Atlantic (6.15) and the New Yorker (6.7), popular magazines that publish thoughtful essays aimed at a general audience. Think of the essay you are about to write as being like the essays you read from these magazines—thoughtful, but not highly technical, and aimed at a general audience, not specialists. Your assignment, then, is to write a three- to-four-page essay in the style of an article from the Atlantic or the New Yorker in which you explain and defend your attitude toward happiness.

Sources :

Alternate Views of Happiness
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There are many paths to happiness. Finding meaning in life, setting and completing challenging goals, and seeking enlightenment through meditation and spiritual retreat are just some ways people pursue it. Based on your reading so far and the results of the “Happiness Survey,” what new ways to find happiness have you learned about that appeal to you?

6.14 Writing: Responding to “Happiness in Sri Lanka?” Rashmi
Here’s a story from Rashmi, a graduate student from Sri Lanka, an island country located off the southern tip of India. Read the story and then write a short paper—a page or so is plenty—in which you discuss what this story reveals about happiness. Could you be happy if you were a member of Rashmi’s family in Sri Lanka?

Happiness in Sri Lanka?

I was born into a poor family in a poor village in a rural section of Sri Lanka, far from Colombo, my country’s capital. We lived in a small house with mud floors, a thatched roof, one electric light bulb, no glass in our windows, and no running water. Everyone else in our village lived in similar circumstances, except one family: the wealthy family, who owned all the land in the village and lived in a mansion outside of the village. Everyone in the village worked for them.

At the end of the eighth grade in our little village school, we were all given a test designed by the national government. I scored one of the highest scores in all Sri Lanka, so I was selected to attend a prestigious boarding school in Colombo for high school. Four years later, I took another test as I graduated from high school and again scored among the top scores in the country. This time I was offered a full scholarship to attend Oxford University in England. After four years at Oxford, I again received a full scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. at the University of Massachusetts. I am on my way to a career as an engineer.

My brothers and sisters and the rest of my family still live in our small house in our little village in Sri Lanka. I get to visit them every three years.

People often say to me, “You must be very happy. You escaped such poverty and gained such a wonderful education and are on your way to a very rewarding career.” I always respond that I am not so sure. When I visit my family, I see that they are very happy. They don’t experience any of the stress I do, they don’t worry about “being successful,” they don’t envy their neighbors because they all live similar, simple lives. There is plenty to eat. They are surrounded by family and friends. They really seem to be much happier than I am.

6.15 Reading: “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” Emily Esfahani Smith
In the article below, which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 2013, Emily Esfahani Smith discusses happiness. The level of happiness in America may have declined somewhat in the troubled years since 2013, but Smith’s central point still seems relevant. Be sure to do some previewing before diving in to this article. (If you need a refresher on previewing, take a look at Previewing a Text [20.2].)
There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

6.15 Reading: “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy,” Emily Esfahani Smith
In the article below, which originally appeared in the Atlantic Monthly magazine in 2013, Emily Esfahani Smith discusses happiness. The level of happiness in America may have declined somewhat in the troubled years since 2013, but Smith’s central point still seems relevant. Be sure to do some previewing before diving in to this article. (If you need a refresher on previewing, take a look at Previewing a Text [20.2].)
There’s More to Life Than Being Happy

Emily Esfahani Smith was born in Zurich, Switzerland; grew up in Montreal, Canada; and now lives in Washington, DC. She earned a master’s degree in applied psychology from the University of Pennsylvania, and in her writing, she draws on psychology, philosophy, and literature as she explores how people find meaning in a world of struggle and difficulty. She is a journalist who has written for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Atlantic, and she is the author of the book The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters.

JANUARY 29, 2013

In September 1942, Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished—but he, prisoner number 119104, had lived. In his bestselling 1946 book, Man’s Search for Meaning, which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student, one of his science teachers declared to the class, “Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation.” Frankl jumped out of his chair and responded, “Sir, if this is so, then what can be the meaning of life?”

As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing,” Frankl wrote in Man’s Search for Meaning, “the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Frankl worked as a therapist in the camps, and in his book, he gives the example of two suicidal inmates he encountered there. Like many others in the camps, these two men were hopeless and thought that there was nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for. “In both cases,” Frankl writes, “it was a question of getting them to realize that life was still expecting something from them; something in the future was expected of them.” For one man, it was his young child, who was then living in a foreign country. For the other, a scientist, it was a series of books that he needed to finish. Frankl writes:

This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how.”

In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man’s Search for Meaning as one of the 10 most influential books in the United States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years later, the book’s ethos—its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self—seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in the search for meaning. “To the European,” Frankl wrote, “it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’ ”

According to Gallup, the happiness levels of Americans are at a four-year high—as is, it seems, the number of best-selling books with the word “happiness” in their titles. At this writing, Gallup also reports that nearly 60 percent of all Americans today feel happy, without a lot of stress or worry. On the other hand, according to the Center[s] for Disease Control, about 4 out of 10 Americans have not discovered a satisfying life purpose. Forty percent either do not think their lives have a clear sense of purpose or are neutral about whether their lives have purpose. Nearly a quarter of Americans feel neutral or do not have a strong sense of what makes their lives meaningful. Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. “It is the very pursuit of happiness,” Frankl knew, “that thwarts happiness.”

* * *

This is why some researchers are cautioning against the pursuit of mere happiness. In a new study, which will be published . . . in the Journal of Positive Psychology, psychological scientists asked nearly 400 Americans aged 18 to 78 whether they thought their lives were meaningful and/or happy. Examining their self-reported attitudes toward meaning, happiness, and many other variables—like stress levels, spending patterns, and having children—over a month-long period, the researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a “taker” while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a “giver.” “Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,” the authors write.

How do the happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.

Most importantly from a social perspective, the pursuit of happiness is associated with selfish behavior—being, as mentioned, a “taker” rather than a “giver.” The psychologists give an evolutionary explanation for this: happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire—like hunger—you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want. Humans, then, are not the only ones who can feel happy. Animals have needs and drives, too, and when those drives are satisfied, animals also feel happy, the researchers point out.

“Happy people get a lot of joy from receiving benefits from others while people leading meaningful lives get a lot of joy from giving to others,” explained Kathleen Vohs, one of the authors of the study, in a recent presentation at the University of Pennsylvania. In other words, meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants. People who have high meaning in their lives are more likely to help others in need. “If anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in need,” the researchers, which include Stanford University’s Jennifer Aaker and Emily Garbinsky, write.

What sets human beings apart from animals is not the pursuit of happiness, which occurs all across the natural world, but the pursuit of meaning, which is unique to humans, according to Roy Baumeister, the lead researcher of the study and author, with John Tierney, of the recent book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength. Baumeister, a social psychologist at Florida State University, was named an ISI [Institute for Scientific Information] highly cited scientific researcher in 2003.

The study participants reported deriving meaning from giving a part of themselves away to others and making a sacrifice on behalf of the overall group. In the words of Martin E. P. Seligman, one of the leading psychological scientists alive today, in the meaningful life “you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self.” For instance, having more meaning in one’s life was associated with activities like buying presents for others, taking care of kids, and arguing. People whose lives have high levels of meaning often actively seek meaning out even when they know it will come at the expense of happiness. Because they have invested themselves in something bigger than themselves, they also worry more and have higher levels of stress and anxiety in their lives than happy people. Having children, for example, is associated with the meaningful life and requires self-sacrifice, but it has been famously associated with low happiness among parents, including the ones in this study. In fact, according to Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, research shows that parents are less happy interacting with their children than they are exercising, eating, and watching television.

“Partly what we do as human beings is to take care of others and contribute to others. This makes life meaningful but it does not necessarily make us happy,” Baumeister told me in an interview.

Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment—which is perhaps the most important finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning.

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. “Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life,” the researchers write. “Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future.” That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy.

Having negative events happen to you, the study found, decreases your happiness but increases the amount of meaning you have in life. Another study from 2011 confirmed this, finding that people who have meaning in their lives, in the form of a clearly defined purpose, rate their satisfaction with life higher even when they were feeling bad than those who did not have a clearly defined purpose. “If there is meaning in life at all,” Frankl wrote, “then there must be meaning in suffering.”

Which brings us back to Frankl’s life and, specifically, a decisive experience he had before he was sent to the concentration camps. It was an incident that emphasizes the difference between the pursuit of meaning and the pursuit of happiness in life.

In his early adulthood, before he and his family were taken away to the camps, Frankl had established himself as one of the leading psychiatrists in Vienna and the world. As a 16-year-old boy, for example, he struck up a correspondence with Sigmund Freud and one day sent Freud a two-page paper he had written. Freud, impressed by Frankl’s talent, sent the paper to the International Journal of Psychoanalysis for publication. “I hope you don’t object,” Freud wrote the teenager.

While he was in medical school, Frankl distinguished himself even further. Not only did he establish suicide-prevention centers for teenagers—a precursor to his work in the camps—but he was also developing his signature contribution to the field of clinical psychology: logotherapy, which is meant to help people overcome depression and achieve well-being by finding their unique meaning in life. By 1941, his theories had received international attention and he was working as the chief of neurology at Vienna’s Rothschild Hospital, where he risked his life and career by making false diagnoses of mentally ill patients so that they would not, per Nazi orders, be euthanized.

That was the same year when he had a decision to make, a decision that would change his life. With his career on the rise and the threat of the Nazis looming over him, Frankl had applied for a visa to America, which he was granted in 1941. By then, the Nazis had already started rounding up the Jews and taking them away to concentration camps, focusing on the elderly first. Frankl knew that it would only be time before the Nazis came to take his parents away. He also knew that once they did, he had a responsibility to be there with his parents to help them through the trauma of adjusting to camp life. On the other hand, as a newly married man with his visa in hand, he was tempted to leave for America and flee to safety, where he could distinguish himself even further in his field.

As Anna S. Redsand recounts in her biography of Frankl, he was at a loss for what to do, so he set out for St. Stephan’s Cathedral in Vienna to clear his head. Listening to the organ music, he repeatedly asked himself, “Should I leave my parents behind? Should I say goodbye and leave them to their fate?” Where did his responsibility lie? He was looking for a “hint from heaven.”

When he returned home, he found it. A piece of marble was lying on the table. His father explained that it was from the rubble of one of the nearby synagogues that the Nazis had destroyed. The marble contained the fragment of one of the Ten Commandments—the one about honoring your father and your mother. With that, Frankl decided to stay in Vienna and forgo whatever opportunities for safety and career advancement awaited him in the United States. He decided to put aside his individual pursuits to serve his family and, later, other inmates in the camps.

The wisdom that Frankl derived from his experiences there, in the middle of unimaginable human suffering, is just as relevant now as it was then: “Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is.”

Baumeister and his colleagues would agree that the pursuit of meaning is what makes human beings uniquely human. By putting aside our selfish interests to serve someone or something larger than ourselves—by devoting our lives to “giving” rather than “taking”—we are not only expressing our fundamental humanity, but are also acknowledging that that there is more to the good life than the pursuit of simple happiness.

6.16 Activity: Thinking about “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy”
Working in your group, answer the following questions about “There’s More to Life Than Being Happy” (6.15).

Does Smith think that happiness is not something we should desire? Why or why not?
In paragraph 5 of the essay, Smith speaks of “overall well-being and life satisfaction.” What seems to be the relationship between “overall well-being and life satisfaction” and “happiness”? What is the relationship between “overall well-being and life satisfaction” and living a “meaningful” life?
If someone wanted to live a “meaningful” life, what would that mean? What gives a life “meaning”?
Can you think of anything one could do to give his or her life “meaning” that would not help others?

The video is

6.17 Video: “Happiness Is All in Your Mind,” Gen Kelsang Nyema

Can Money Buy You Happiness? It’s True to
Some Extent. But Chances Are You’re not Getting
the Most Bang for Your Buck.
Blackman, Andrew . Wall Street Journal (Online) ; New York, N.Y. [New York, N.Y]10 Nov 2014: n/a.
ProQuest document link
[…]this latest research suggests, wealth alone doesn’t provide any guarantee of a good life. […]Prof. Howell,
associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, decided to look at what’s going on.
It’s an age-old question: Can money buy happiness?
Over the past few years, new research has given us a much deeper understanding of the relationship between what
we earn and how we feel. Economists have been scrutinizing the links between income and happiness across
nations, and psychologists have probed individuals to find out what really makes us tick when it comes to cash.
The results, at first glance, may seem a bit obvious: Yes, people with higher incomes are, broadly speaking, happier
than those who struggle to get by.
But dig a little deeper into the findings, and they get a lot more surprising–and a lot more useful.
In short, this latest research suggests, wealth alone doesn’t provide any guarantee of a good life. What matters a
lot more than a big income is For instance, giving money away makes people a lot happier than lavishing it on
themselves. And when they do spend money on themselves, people are a lot happier when they use it for
experiences like travel than for material goods.
With that in mind, here’s what the latest research says about how people can make smarter use of their dollars and
maximize their happiness.
Experiences Are Worth More Than You Think
Ryan Howell was bothered by a conundrum. Numerous studies conducted over the past 10 years have shown that
life experiences give us more lasting pleasure than material things, and yet people still often deny themselves
experiences and prioritize buying material goods.
So, Prof. Howell, associate professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, decided to look at what’s
going on. In a study published earlier this year, he found that people think material purchases offer better value for
the money because experiences are fleeting, and material goods last longer. So, although they’ll occasionally
splurge on a big vacation or concert tickets, when they’re in more money-conscious mode, they stick to material
But in fact, Prof. Howell found that when people looked back at their purchases, they realized that experiences
actually provided better value.
“What we find is that there’s this huge misforecast,” he says. “People think that experiences are only going to
provide temporary happiness, but they actually provide both more happiness and more lasting value.” And yet we
still keep on buying material things, he says, because they’re tangible and we think we can keep on using them.
Cornell University psychology professor Thomas Gilovich has reached similar conclusions. “People often make a
rational calculation: I have a limited amount of money, and I can either go there, or I can have this,” he says. “If I go
there, it’ll be great, but it’ll be done in no time. If I buy this thing, at least I’ll always have it. That is factually true, but
not psychologically true. We adapt to our material goods.”
It’s this process of “hedonic adaptation” that makes it so hard to buy happiness through material purchases. The
new dress or the fancy car provides a brief thrill, but we soon come to take it for granted.
Experiences, on the other hand, tend to meet more of our underlying psychological needs, says Prof. Gilovich.
They’re often shared with other people, giving us a greater sense of connection, and they form a bigger part of our
sense of identity. If you’ve climbed in the Himalayas, that’s something you’ll always remember and talk about, long
after all your favorite gadgets have gone to the landfill.
And, crucially, we tend not to compare our experiences with other people so much. “Keeping up with the Joneses is
much more prominent for material things than for experiential things,” he says. “Imagine you’ve just bought a new
computer that you really like, and I show up and say I’ve paid the same amount for one with a brighter monitor and
faster processor. How much would that bug you?”
In experiments he’s run, it bugs people a lot. But when people are told to imagine they’ve gone on vacation to New
Zealand, and someone else has had a slightly better vacation, “it bothers people somewhat, but you still have your
own experiences and your own memories, and so it tends to trouble you less.”
In a recent paper called “Waiting for Merlot,” Prof. Gilovich and colleagues showed that we also get more pleasure
out of anticipating experiences than anticipating the acquisition of material things. People waiting for an event
were generally excited, whereas waiting for material things “seemed to have an impatient quality.”
Don’t Adapt to What You Buy
One of the main reasons why having more stuff doesn’t always make us happy is that we adapt to it. “Human
beings are remarkably good at getting used to changes in their lives, especially positive changes,” says Sonja
Lyubomirsky, psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside. “If you have a rise in income, it gives
you a boost, but then your aspirations rise too. Maybe you buy a bigger home in a new neighborhood, and so your
neighbors are richer, and you start wanting even more. You’ve stepped on the hedonic treadmill. Trying to prevent
that or slow it down is really a challenge.”
One approach that can work, she says, is consciously trying to foster appreciation and gratitude for what you have.
The process of adaptation, after all, comes from taking what you have for granted, so you can slow it down by
reminding yourself of why you value what you have.
It could be as simple as setting aside time every day to follow the traditional advice of “counting your blessings.”
Or you might want to keep a daily journal or express your gratitude to other people. The key is to find a way to
remain conscious of everything you own and avoid simply adapting to having it around.
Because you’re working against your natural inclination, Prof. Lyubomirsky acknowledges that feelings of gratitude
and appreciation can be very difficult to sustain. If your journal or daily list becomes just a stale routine, it will no
longer have much effect. You might have to keep switching techniques.
Increasing variety, novelty or surprise can also help you to enjoy your possessions more. “When things become
unchanging, that’s when you adapt to them,” Prof. Lyubomirsky says.
If you keep a painting hanging in the same spot on the same wall, for example, you’ll stop noticing it after a while.
But swap it with a painting from another room, and you’ll see each of them with fresh eyes, and appreciate them
more. Try sharing your possessions with other people, too, and opening yourself up to new experiences, she says.
This could even mean depriving yourself of your possessions for a while, perhaps by lending them or sharing them
with someone else. Elizabeth Dunn, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and
co-author of the book “Happy Money,” recently conducted an experiment where she sent people home with a big
bag of chocolate, telling some of them to eat as much of it as they could and others that they were forbidden to eat
it. A third group could choose how much to eat.
The result? The people who had been forbidden from eating chocolate were able to enjoy their next chocolate bar
much more than those who’d either eaten a lot or consumed their normal amount. “Giving something up
temporarily can actually help to preserve our capacity to enjoy it,” Prof. Dunn says.
Try Giving It Away
The paradox of money is that although earning more of it tends to enhance our well-being, we become happier by
giving it away than by spending it on ourselves.
That’s the finding from a series of studies by Prof. Dunn. She began by handing out cash to students on campus
and telling some to spend it on themselves and others to spend it on someone else. Those who spent money on
other people were happier than those who treated themselves.
Prof. Dunn has since repeated the experiment in other countries across the world, and has extended it to look at
whether people were still happy when giving away their own money rather than free money handed to them by a
professor. She found that in countries as diverse as Canada, South Africa and Uganda, giving away money
consistently made people happier. This was even true when people were giving away their own money, and even
when they themselves were relatively poor.
She also worked with economists to analyze survey data from 100 countries in the Gallup World Poll, and found
that people who donated money to charity were happier, in poor and rich countries alike.
“The fact that we were able to observe the same effect that we’d seen in Canada in places like South Africa and
Uganda was probably the biggest surprise of my career,” she says. “A lot of us think we’ll give to charity one day,
when we’re richer, but actually we see the benefits of giving even among people who are struggling to meet their
own basic needs.”
What moves the needle in terms of happiness is not so much the dollar amount you give, Prof. Dunn says, but the
perceived impact of your donation. If you can see your money making a difference in other people’s lives, it will
make you happy even if the amount you gave was quite small.
Be Sure to Buy Time, Too
It’s also important to consider how what you’re buying will affect how you spend your time. That big house in the
suburbs may seem like a good idea, but a 2004 study by Alois Stutzer and Bruno Frey of the University of Zurich
found that people with longer commutes reported lower overall life satisfaction, all other things being equal. They
calculated that you would need a 40% raise to offset the added misery of a one-hour commute.
“Use money to buy yourself better time,” says Prof. Dunn. “Don’t buy a slightly fancier car so that you have heated
seats during your two-hour commute. Buy a place close to work, so that you can use that final hour of daylight to
kick a ball around in the park with your kids.”
Another way to buy yourself time, Prof. Dunn says, is by outsourcing tasks you dislike. Whereas hiring personal
assistants used to be the preserve of the wealthy, it’s now easier and more affordable to hire freelancers and
virtual assistants online to help you with either regular administration or just individual tasks.
She’s currently doing research on how people actually spend the time they save by outsourcing tasks and whether
it makes them happier. The preliminary findings, she says, are that most people do become happier by buying time
for themselves, but only if they use the time in the right way.
“Our hypothesis is that people will be much more likely to derive an emotional benefit if they think of it as ‘windfall
time’ and use it to do something good, rather than just taking it for granted,” she says.
But while buying time is a good idea, putting a dollar value on your time may not be. In another piece of research in
progress, Prof. Dunn is finding that when people think of their time as money, it makes them less likely to spend
even small amounts of time on things that are not financially compensated. “Seeing time as money may have a
number of destructive consequences,” she says.
Money Only Brings Happiness Up to a Point
When looking at all of these research results, there’s an important caveat to bear in mind. Those in the field divide
happiness into two components, and you need to have both parts working together to be truly happy. But only one
of those components keeps improving the more you earn. The other tops out after a certain point.
The first measure of happiness is “evaluative.” Prof. Lyubomirsky defines it as “a sense that your life is good–
you’re satisfied with your life, you’re progressing towards your life goals.” That’s the measure used by economists
Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, who have conducted extensive research comparing economic data and
happiness surveys across the world. “We found very clear evidence that in just about every country around the
world, rich people are happier than poor people,” says Prof. Wolfers. “And people in rich countries are happier than
people in poor countries.”
The other component of happiness–“affective”–looks at how often you experience positive emotions like joy,
affection and tranquility, as opposed to negative ones, explains Prof. Lyubomirsky. “You could be satisfied with
your life overall but you may not actually be happy at the time,” she says. “Of course, happy people experience
negative emotions, just not as often. So you have to have both components.”
Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton of Princeton University found that when they looked at affective measures,
happiness did not rise after a household reached an annual income of approximately $75,000. (They did, however,
find a consistent rise in overall life satisfaction, matching the results of Profs. Wolfers and Stevenson.)
The bottom line: When you don’t have much money, a little extra can go a long way, because you have more
essential needs to fulfill. As you accumulate more wealth, however, it becomes more difficult to keep “buying”
more happiness.
Don’t Get in Over Your Head
Finally, although much of the research in this field is on spending money rather than saving it, the researchers
agree that spending more than you can afford is a route to misery. Taking care of your basic needs and achieving a
level of financial security is important.
Prof. Gilovich says that although his research shows that life experiences give more happiness than material
goods, people should of course buy the essentials first. His findings hold true across a broad range of income
levels and demographic groups, but not for people with very low incomes. “Those people don’t really have
discretionary income; it pretty much all has to go on necessities,” he says.
Some studies, meanwhile, have shown that debt has a detrimental effect on happiness, while savings and financial
security tend to boost it. A survey of British households found that those with higher levels of debt reported lower
happiness, and a separate piece of research on married couples showed that those in more debt had more marital
“Savings are good for happiness; debt is bad for happiness. But debt is more potently bad than savings are good,”
Prof. Dunn says. “From a happiness perspective, it’s more important to get rid of debt than to build savings.”
So before you go out and spend all your money on a dream vacation, make sure you’ve taken care of the basics,
paid off your debts, and have enough money to shield yourself from the worst of life’s troubles.
“Financial advisers are actually right,” Prof. Howell says. “The first thing you should be doing with your money is
building up a safety net. If you go into debt to buy these great life experiences, the stress you’ll feel when the
credit-card bill comes in will probably wipe out the good that you got from the experience.”
Mr. Blackman is a writer in Crete. He can be reached at .
Credit: By Andrew Blackman
Database copyright  2020 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.
Terms and Conditions Contact ProQuest
Subject: Happiness; Vacations
Company / organization: Name: Cornell University; NAICS: 611310; Name: San Francisco State University;
NAICS: 611310
Publication title: Wall Street Journal (Online); New York, N.Y.
Pages: n/a
Publication year: 2014
Publication date: Nov 10, 2014
Section: Special
Publisher: Dow Jones &Company Inc
Place of publication: New York, N.Y.
Country of publication: United States, New York, N.Y.
Publication subject: Business And Economics
e-ISSN: 25749579
Source type: Newspapers
Language of publication: English
Document type: News
ProQuest document ID: 1621985648
Document URL:
Copyright: (c) 2014 Dow Jones &Company, Inc. Reproduced with permission of copyright owner.
Further reproduction or distribution is prohibited without permission.
Last updated: 2017-11-21
Database: The Wall Street Journal,ABI/INFORM Global

Religion and literature warns about its evils. But the research proves the opposite: the more you have, the happier you are.

Last month, the people of Great Britain were briefly transfixed by the tale of an anonymous woman with a very big secret. Three years ago, the woman, who lives somewhere in England, won £1.5 million in a lottery, but kept the news from her entire family, including her husband. Mrs. X called in to a radio program on the BBC, and explained that she had stashed the money away in her bank account and barely touched it, because she feared the effect it would have on her relatively happy middle-class life.

A sudden rush of affluence might disrupt the lives of her two young children, she said. And her husband, who had struggled to overcome a minor drug problem 15 years earlier, might want to quit work or start taking lavish holidays, which would “destroy our little family unit we’ve got now.” So, rather than court disaster, the woman decided to tell what she calls a “huge white lie” and go on living as if the money had never arrived, tapping it only for small purchases that wouldn’t raise any suspicion. After three years, almost all of it was still there.

Listener reaction to the story ranged from outraged to bewildered. How could anyone squander such good fortune? With the opportunity to raise her family’s standard of living so easily, how could she decide for all of them that life was good enough as it was?

There were others, though, who could perfectly understand her fear, if not her decision. It was the product of society’s most enduring love-hate relationship. Most people spend the majority of their adult lives thinking about money and pursuing it in one way or another. But we’ve also been told from our earliest days that practically all human misery flows from our preoccupation with wealth. The message is embedded in literature, drama and in the teachings of every major religion, from the Buddhist monk’s vow of poverty to the Bible’s deadly sins of greed and gluttony. Deep down, everyone remembers the fable of Aesop’s dog, whose desire for yet another bone cost him the one he already had. Time and again, we’re reminded that money can’t buy the most fundamental human desire: happiness. It’s little wonder Mrs. X feared her windfall.

But if she’d consulted the scientific evidence, she’d know that Aesop had it wrong. So did the ancient stoics, and every other scold who ever warned against the pursuit of wealth. There’s a reason why Paris Hilton always seems to be smiling and blissfully distant from the trials of the real world. The evidence is overwhelming: money can buy happiness.

Over the past 30 years, study after study has established a definitive link between wealth and happiness.

We know, for example, that people in rich countries are substantially happier, on average, than people in middle-income countries, who are happier, on average, than people in poor countries. No big surprise there. Office politics, rush-hour traffic and midlife crises may cause people to grumble, but try walking four miles through a minefield to the nearest well, which may or may not be contaminated, to fetch water for your children — suddenly, the guy who clips his fingernails in the next cubicle doesn’t seem like such a big deal. People on both sides of the poverty divide understand how the other half lives, so it’s hardly a shock to discover that more money means more joy on a global scale.

The real controversy lies in the question of how money affects individual happiness. For instance, in the developed world, once all of life’s most basic needs are satisfied, is there any sense in chasing ever greater prosperity? The modern-day stoics say no, and they marshall their own evidence. In particular, skeptics point to a groundbreaking 30-year-old study by economist Richard Easterlin, showing that between the 1950s and 1970s, Japan’s national income increased by 10 times, and yet average happiness (measured through extensive polling) didn’t budge. The story is the same in the United States where, in 1993, a professor of psychology named David G. Myers reported that the percentage of people who say they are “very happy” remained unchanged at about 30 per cent between 1960 and 1990, even as inflation-adjusted, after-tax incomes more than doubled.

So personal satisfaction doesn’t grow in lockstep with the economy, and that has formed the bedrock argument for a variety of critics and activists opposed to the West’s whole notion of progress and prosperity. Last year, British economist Richard Layard wrote Happiness: Lessons From a New Science, in which he argued that getting rich was a form of “pollution,” which actually reduces one’s ability to feel happy over time. Layard’s tome, and subsequent journal articles, echoed the themes of Gregg Easterbrook’s 2004 book, The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Both point to rising levels of depression, suicide and a long list of other indicators suggesting that as the world is getting richer, it’s also becoming a more miserable place.

But those who’ve spent their careers studying the relationship between wealth and well-being say it’s not enough to look at the total wealth and overall happiness of a given country — you have to look at specific groups within society to see who’s happiest and why. When you do that, the patterns become obvious. “When we plot average happiness versus average income for clusters of people in a given country at a given time, we see that rich people are in fact much happier than poor people,” Robert Frank, a professor of economics at Cornell University, explained in a 2004 paper for the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. That was confirmed again in a study released last year by Glenn Firebaugh, a professor of sociology and demography at Pennsylvania State University. In the United States, the more money you have, the happier you tend to be, he said. And as Swedish academic Johan Norberg noted last year in a critique of Layard’s book, “The most happy and satisfied places on earth are the ones that are the most dynamic, individualist and wealthy: North America, Northern Europe and Australia.”

But why? When you ask people what makes them happy, they rarely mention money. And there are volumes of scholarly research, including Firebaugh’s recent study, showing that income pales next to love and good health when it comes to ensuring a happy life. A sense of belonging and purpose is also essential. Clearly, there’s more to life than the size of your bankroll. But here’s the catch: several of those other things that make life worth living are inextricably linked to how much money you have.

For instance, studies conducted in dozens of countries in recent decades have found that unemployment is more likely than almost anything else to make human beings despondent. The link between work and money is pretty self-evident, but Firebaugh found that physical health, education and marital status also had powerful impacts on life satisfaction. On the surface, those things seem unrelated to money, except that rich people tend to be a lot healthier, likely because they have access to better health care. The higher your education level, the better-paying and more stimulating your job tends to be. And counsellors routinely report that financial stability is one of the key ingredients of a strong and lasting marriage.

So if society is getting richer on the whole, and the rich are happier than the poor, why is it that the total number of people who feel “very happy” never seems to rise? According to Firebaugh, it’s because human beings evaluate their wealth and well-being by comparing themselves with neighbours, colleagues and peers. That results in what he calls a “hedonic treadmill” — in order to remain happy, people need to raise their income faster than those around them, and since everybody’s income tends to rise gradually over time, this creates the need to constantly strive for more.

Merely keeping up with the Joneses doesn’t cut it. If you want to be happy, you need to see that little glint of envy in Mr. Jones’s eye as you pull into your driveway in a new Mercedes convertible. And so, “families whose income earners are in jobs with flat income trajectories are likely to become less happy over time,” Firebaugh says. Contrary to popular belief, then, it seems more money is often the only thing that can buy happiness. Unfortunately, this kind of financial striving is practically a zero-sum game. There will only ever be so many clear winners, a few obvious unfortunates, and a vast middle ground of people who have what they need but yearn for more.

So if money is, at the very least, a key ingredient to happiness in modern society, why is our popular culture so rife with myths of miserable millionaires and happy hobos? And why do we believe so deeply in the destructive power of sudden wealth? Perhaps it’s because the stories make us feel better about our own struggle with the hedonic treadmill. And perhaps it also has to do with the moral questions that surround money. Our fables and myths are built on the values of generosity and selflessness, and propagating the notion that it’s better to give than to receive. Those themes are so entrenched in our minds that even modern tales of financial ruin take on an almost mythical quality.

Last month, the Washington Post told the story of William “Bud” Post — a man whose life, by all accounts, was ruined by the Pennsylvania state lottery. Bud won US$16.2 million in 1988. At the time, he told reporters he had $2.46 in his bank account, and he pawned a $40 ring to buy 40 tickets, one of which turned out to be a winner. The jackpot was to be paid in annual instalments of about $498,000. Within three months, Bud was $500,000 in debt, after buying a Florida restaurant, a used-car lot and an airplane, though he couldn’t fly it.

Over the next eight years he went from one misadventure to the next, losing money, friends and getting caught up in court cases. His own brother tried to hire someone to kill him. He lacked enough money to finish the renovations on his dream home. Eventually he declared bankruptcy, yet somehow emerged with about $1 million in cash. He then spent it on two homes, three cars, two Harley Davidson motorcycles, two massive televisions, a luxury camper and a sailboat. None of it, it seems, filled the void in Bud’s life. He ended up living on a $450-a-month disability pension, with false teeth that gave him chronic headaches, and a pile of junk where his swimming pool was supposed to be. “I was much happier when I was broke,” he once told a reporter. Bud died of respiratory failure on Jan. 15 in Pittsburgh.

Such tales are hardly uncommon, and Canada has spun more than a few of its own. Nova Scotian Jimmy Cohoon won $500,000 in 1984, and drank it all away with his buddies in just 11 weeks. Perhaps saddest of all is the story of Gerald Muswagon, who won $10 million in 1998, lost it all to partying and bad investments, and hung himself last October. These stories and dozens of others have helped entrench the popular belief that lottery wins are often curses that leave victims deeply embittered and broke. But scientists see it differently. They would say things turned out badly for Bud and the others because they likely weren’t very happy to begin with, and money is a poor salve for a troubled soul.

In 1978, a widely cited paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology tracked the changing attitudes and happiness of lottery winners and accident victims and found, shockingly, that both groups ended up more or less as happy after their life-changing events as they were before. The conclusion seemed to suggest that human beings are incredibly adaptable to their circumstances, and that neither tragedy nor triumph has a lasting effect on our state of mind. But again, a slightly different approach yields a different result.

That 1978 study, like most research on lottery winners, relied on people to answer questions about how they felt in the past: are you happy? happier now than you were five years ago? 10 years ago? The problem is, our recollections get skewed over time. It’s extremely hard for most people to accurately remember how happy or unhappy they were at a particular time in the past.

The picture is further clouded as our expectations of life change. Virtually every study ever done on money and happiness has noted that wealth produces diminishing returns. Once we get to a point where we can afford our bills, and some basic pleasures without undue financial hardship, the effect of more money on our state of mind begins to fall off. That’s why Bill Gates, who has several thousand times more money than the average American, is not several thousand times happier. In fact, research suggests he’s probably not even twice as happy.

Does this mean windfalls produce nothing of value, or that we are predestined to be just as happy as we choose to be, regardless of how rich we are? Not at all, according to researchers at the University of Warwick, England. Beginning in the mid-1990s professors Andrew Oswald and Jonathan Gardner followed 9,000 people over the course of eight years, tracking various changes in their lives, and their level of happiness over time. In the course of their survey, hundreds came into an inheritance or a lottery win, which allowed researchers to track their state of mind without relying on participants’ memories. They found that those who came into money were significantly happier afterwards than they were before. Windfalls of as little as £1,000 produced a measurable rise in happiness in the year following, and a win of £1.5 million or more was enough to move people from the unhappiest two per cent to the very happiest. “Lots of people would like to think that there are a lot of miserable millionaires out there, but even quite small windfalls show up in our statistics on psychological well-being,” Oswald said in 2004. “Large sums are better than small sums.”

So what of all those lottery winners, like Bud, who insist their windfalls ruined their lives? What of those who describe an overwhelming sense of emptiness once that initial rush of euphoria wore off? Well, according to Cornell’s Robert Frank, the money itself is not the root of the problem. In 2004, Frank assembled much of the existing research in the emerging field of happiness economics, and argued that most people subvert their own joy through the ways in which they choose to use their newfound wealth. “Considerable evidence suggests that if we use an increase in our incomes, as many of us do, simply to buy bigger houses and more expensive cars, then we do not end up any happier than before. But if we use an increase in our incomes to buy more of certain inconspicuous goods — such as freedom from a long commute or a stressful job — then the evidence paints a very different picture.”

That is the real beauty of wealth: it buys freedom and choice. The Mercedes convertible provides a thrill, maybe even a temporary respite from the hedonic treadmill, but Frank’s evidence shows rich people tend to be happier because they can afford to avoid and eliminate the things that cause stress, anxiety and depression. For most people, happiness comes from devoting less energy to chores and burdens, and replacing them with more meaningful and rewarding pursuits — family, friends, exercise, travel and other “restorative activities.” Those who do, says Frank, are less likely to fall ill, to miss work, to come into conflict with others, and a lot less likely to commit suicide. But that kind of freedom doesn’t come cheap, especially if you’re not quite capable of stepping off the treadmill of consumer culture entirely.

It may be true that money for its own sake means nothing. It may also be true that those who measure themselves by the things they own will never be satisfied. And, as far as we know, you still can’t take it with you. But as Gertrude Stein said, “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. It’s better to be rich.”

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