Obviously if you’re worried about keeping a roof over your head and food on your plate, those are your first priorities towards being happy. Assuming the basics are covered, now we can ask the question – Is happiness something you can buy?
To buy or not to buy
Let’s see. Your phone is already three years old. It can’t do a quarter of the things your sister’s phone can do and it’s ten times slower than everyone else’s phone. You really, really, really want a new phone. You have the money. If you buy it, you know you’ll be ten times happier than you are now. Easy math:
10 X better phone = 10 X happier person.
So you buy that new phone. And you’re right you are happy! But you’re not quite ten times happier then you were before. And the happiness factor doesn’t stick around either, because before you know it, your new phone is just your phone and worse, everyday that you have it, it’s getting to be an old phone compared to all the new phones being pulled out of the pockets and purses of all your friends.
That’s the thing about things. You think the purchase of them will make you happy. You certainly feel happy in anticipation of the purchase and the second you get your hands on the thing, but that happiness is fleeting. Like the happiness you feel when eating your favorite dish. Once you’ve swallowed the final spoonful of that delicious chocolate sundae the happiness melts away. It’s a happiness of the moment. No staying power.
To do or not to do
However an experience can achieve much longer lasting happiness. Think of it as happiness created by what you do rather than what you buy. It’s the kind of happiness that can accumulate interest – interest being the happiness gained through memories of the event. Then there’s compound interest – doing something for someone else where you get a double helping of feel-good, both in the moment of doing and during the time of revisiting.
Anticipation of a goal
Whether you’re anticipating buying something or doing something that pre-happiness time is some of the happiest time of all. Future happiness keeps us engaged longer than the actual event.
Ultimately it seems happiness is an illusive emotion that comes and goes. Things you buy eventually lose their luster, even the best experience fades away into the past. Since anticipation seems to be a mood improver maybe that’s where we should focus our attention. Continually working towards new goals, new experiences, always having something to look forward to. That way you have the satisfaction of the goal once achieved (fleeting or long lived as that is) and always following up with another goal to keep things fresh.