Despite the abundance of folk wisdom on the topic, it wasn’t until a decade ago that researchers started to take a hard look at whether money really does have anything to do with happiness. What the studies found is that while there is a connection between wealth and happiness, it is pretty weak.
“It’s not a zero correlation, even at higher income levels, but it’s not a very big correlation,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California at Riverside and a leading happiness researcher. Money, she says, “matters less than we think it would.”
First, they surveyed 632 Americans on their general happiness, along with what they spent their money on, and found that higher “prosocial spending” – gifts for others and donations to charity – was indeed correlated with higher self-reported happiness.
Then came a detailed look at 16 workers before and after they received a profit-sharing bonus from their company. They found that the only factor that reliably predicted which workers would be happy six to eight weeks after the bonus was their prosocial spending – the more money people spent on charity and gifts for others, the happier they were.
But was the happiness caused by giving money away, or were charitable people simply happier to start with? Good question!
To show a connection, they then performed an experiment in which volunteers were given a small windfall of $5 to $20. Some, chosen at random, were told to spend it on a bill, an expense, or a gift for themselves. The others were told to buy a gift for someone else or make a charitable donation.
Afterwards, the second group – the ones who had given the money away – reported being significantly happier than those who had spent the money on their own needs.
Turns out Jesus was right!
You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” ~ Acts 20:35
Feeling a bit down? Need a little pick-me-up? Looking to jump-start the flow of endorphins (happy hormones) through your veins?
Go give something away!