There are many paths to finding happiness. It could be as easy as asking this one powerful question I wrote about here. Or as simple as a 5-step process that's been proven by science (and hey, Oprah, digs it too.)
But what about buying happiness? No, I'm not talking about purchasing your next Bimmer or that cruise to Alaska. The happiness high from material possessions will only last temporarily in the busyness and brutality of life.
What if you knew the basics of what truly brings you happiness, keeps you happy over time, and then you went ahead and used your hard-earned money to get it?
Well, it turns out science can tell us the answers to those questions. And that's good because most of us have very little experience with this. We keep looking in the wrong places.
Putting your money where happiness is found.
Kira Newman, who writes for Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, highlights several ways you can confidently spend your money, knowing that when you do, it will bring you long-lasting happiness.
1. Spend money on sharing experiences with others.
Several studies found that happiness comes from experiential purchases that involve other people, like taking in a play, shooting a 9-hole round of golf, or going out to dinner or coffee. When you do, it improves your well-being more than buying material possessions. "It may be less the doing that creates happiness than it is sharing the doing," the authors of one study explain.
2. Spend money on other people, especially the right people.
When decisions are made in generosity it leads to happier outcomes. One study reported that participants felt happier after treating others than treating themselves. But the most fulfillment in giving comes from "prosocial" spending--spending on others with social connection attached, especially close friends and family.
3. Spend money on causes you believe in.
If you're going to give to charity, give big. Newman says that "bigger donors reported feeling more positive emotion and more satisfaction with life than smaller donors"--especially if a charity organization states specifically how giving directly impacts the recipient. For example, "how a single bed net can prevent malaria and save a child's life," states Newman. In one Gallup World Poll across 136 countries, "donating to charity had a similar relationship to happiness as doubling household income."
4. Spend according to your personality.
If you're skeptical so far about spending on shared experiences, other people or causes because, well, you're just not cut from that mold, we got you covered. One 2016 study tested whether personalities influence the happiness that comes from spending. Donating to charities, for example, might reflect "conscientiousness and agreeableness." On the other hand, spending on that trip to an African safari might "reflect openness to experience and extraversion." As Newman states, "participants with a better match between their personality and the personality of their purchases reported more satisfaction with life."
5. In the end, happiness may not come down to spending.
Just the thought of the Christmas holidays stresses most people because of its pressures around spending. The happiest and most satisfied people around the holidays are counter-cultural; they emphasize time over money, and focus more on family and faith than the ritual of giving and receiving.