People buy lottery hoping that they will win big. Winning, big of course means getting a lot of money. And we all know that getting a lot of money will make us happy, isn’t that? After all, that’s what we want in our lives.
We think that once we get a lot of money and become millionaires and billionaires, we will be very happy for the rest of our lives. This is why we are always after more money. We look for the jobs where we get paid more money.
We look for jobs with greater opportunities for growth. Why? Because although we like the higher status that usually comes along with job growth, it really is, the more money that we are after.
Any job discussion that you ever have, will inevitably refer to the money aspect of the job. Especially which job pays highest or higher. Well, how obvious is that? More money is the predominant concern that we carry around with us.
No wonder the majority of scams that take place in the world involve false promise about making you lots of money in inordinate amount of time. This is also the reason, why we all obsess about stock market as we see that it is the only way to easily double, triple or quadruple the money in a short amount of time. Of course that apart from gambling or winning a lottery.
But does it really work? Does more money really make you happier? And more importantly, does more money or winning a big jackpot give you lasting happiness? Would it make you happier for the rest of your life?
Well, we all have personal opinions about this question. But if we turn to latest research, it doesn’t seem to be true. Yes, it seems like more money gives you momentary happiness, but it does not give you lasting happiness.
Winning lottery makes you ecstatic in the short run. But it doesn’t make you happier for the rest of your life. You may wonder why? The answer is adaptation. We adapt to circumstances.
When we judge that more money or winning lottery will make us happier, we are correct about the general direction of the outcome. We are right about the fact that we are gonna like it more and we are gonna be happier when that event happens.
But then we are gonna adapt to new circumstances. We are gonna get used to more money and subsequently we are gonna find ourselves back to where we started with. There is a scientific term for this adaptation, it is called “Hedonic adaptation”.
And it is the same reason, when we break our neck and become paraplegic, although initially we may think that we are doomed and we will be sad and depressed for the rest of our lives, after a while, we go back to the happiness level before the accident. Again the reason is that we adapt to circumstances.
In a study of people who won the lottery, they were ecstatic right after winning lottery. But in as low as 4 to 6 months, they were back to their base level of happiness. Meaning they were back to how they were before winning the lottery.
In all honestly, it is not as if money doesn’t matter at all. The correlation between money and happiness is not zero. It is believed to be close to 0.2. What this really means is that it is not as if money doesn’t matter at all when it comes to being happy.
It just means that money has a very small effect on our long term happiness, which is why banking all your hopes on money for increasing happiness is the wrong strategy to follow. In other words, we overestimate the effects of money on our happiness by a very large amount.
Well then you may ask, “What should you do?”. How can you really increase your happiness levels that would last? Or is it really possible to increase the happiness levels at all?
I mentioned earlier that after big events, people tend to fall back to their base levels of happiness. Here the base level means the default level that they are born with. This may give you a sense that we are stuck with happiness levels that we are born with.
In fact at one point in the time many scientists believed this. Studies with identical twins that were raised geographically apart indicated that trying to increase your happiness was as futile as trying to change your height. And it can be counter productive.
But that view has changed in recent years. Today, scientists strongly believed that although there is a strong genetic factor at play when it comes to our happiness levels. Our happiness levels are not fixed as our heights and we can definitely change our happiness levels.
Besides the heritability, happiness is dependent upon two other factors. It is dependent upon the circumstance that you live in. If you happen to be living under a dictatorial regime, where you don’t have much freedom in daily activities, you are not going to be happy. If you are poor and are hungry and struggling to find food and shelter, that will make you unhappy.
The last and most crucial factor is that happiness depends upon the voluntary activities that we can choose to carry out. Voluntary here in the sense that we can freely choose to do these activities.
Exercise, helping others and expressing gratitude are some of the examples of activities that we can choose to do, which will lead to increased happiness. We will explore details about such activities and their impact on our happiness in a separate article.
In conclusion, “lots of money” strategy is not a very good one for increasing our happiness. Although it seems that’s what most of us are after. Genetic factors play a big part in determining our overall happiness and well being. There are other factors like certain voluntary activities that are much more effective at improving your happiness in a way that will last longer and possibly for the rest of your life.