It’s true, just as the old saying goes: money will not buy you happiness. For some this may be puzzling, because I’m sure it seems like having a really nice house, a sports car, and funds to go wherever one wishes, would create more happiness than having to worry about making ends meet every month. However, studies show that having money does not equal happiness. In fact, it has the opposite effect in many cases!
A poll conducted by Gallup and Healthways Global reveals that Panama and Costa Rica have the most satisfied citizens in the world, despite the fact that both countries fall way short of countries like the United States— regarding wealth. Why is that? Why does the United States—a country full of opportunities, resources, all sorts of leisure activities, with the availability of mental health care—contain so many more unhappy people than Panama—which is stricken with poverty and citizens who must overcome unimaginable circumstances in life—? Researchers interviewed 133,000 people from 135 different countries and found that people from the 2 Central American nations had the highest scores in three out of five categories of well-being. These are the 3 categories Central Americans ranked superior in:
- Purpose: how well you are satisfied with the way your days are spent, as well as how motivated you are to reach your goals
- Social: whether or not you have supportive relationships and love in your life
- Community: whether or not you like where you live, feel safe, and have pride in your community
The remaining categories, financial and physical, have to do with one’s economic state and health status. Panama was ranked 29th in the financial category and Costa Rica was 38th. Surprisingly, the U.S. was not in the top 10 in any category. What does this say about the mental health situation and where we place happiness in this country? Perhaps we are teaching our children to define happiness in all the wrong ways.
It could have to do with the fact that the media projects messages everywhere that money is the key to happiness in life; if one doesn’t have extraordinary experiences and things, he/she can’t be happy. What about finding magic and satisfaction in the ordinary aspects of life?
I find great pleasure in having tulips in my kitchen. That’s enough to make me happy right away everyday. Waking up and seeing my flowers blooming puts me in a good mood at the start of my day. Things as simple as eating a meal you love and smiling at a stranger are not really focused on anymore, and such activities are the root of genuine happiness!
It seems as if people in our society are forgetting the easy ways to be happy, and quickly becoming unhappy when the littlest thing doesn’t go “right”. You don’t need a fancy car or expensive clothes to be satisfied. If that was the case, for thousands of years civilizations would have been depressed their entire lives.
If you spend your life waiting around for material things in order to be jovial, chances are you will have squandered endless chances to be happy. Not everyone will be rich in their life, so why place your life’s meaning and satisfaction in something that very well could never be realized? Do what you love, be with those you love, and do what makes you content. Here are some tips to help you boost your level of happiness everyday!
- Find something you enjoy doing, and do it! This can be as simple as you want it to be—especially for those of us who are really busy all the time. Watch an episode of a series you like on Netflix, take a hot bath, listen to a song you love, play a game or sport for fun, explore your city, take a painting class, drink some wine while watching the sun go down, or treat yourself to an exciting little excursion. Anything that gives you some joy, find some time and seize the opportunity to actually get that joy!
- Do something kind for someone else. One of the most natural emotions is feeling good after doing something good for someone else. Hold the door for a stranger, compliment someone’s blouse, strike up a friendly conversation on the bus, give a few dollars to a homeless man on the street if you can, or even pay for someone’s order behind you in the drive- through line. Do what you can to instill happiness in others, and at the same time you’re lighting the fire within yourself.
- Talk/interact with your loved ones. Call your mom before bed, text with your friends, or go out to dinner with your co-workers. This should be really easy to maintain in the age of electronics and social media.
- Stop and think about all of the things you have going for you!
A lot of times, we forget about all of the blessings we have and focus on what has gone wrong or may be lacking at the moment. Life isn’t perfect, so there will of course be times of sadness and maybe even depression, but there are so many cases in which that doesn’t have to be true. So you got a speeding ticket and were late to work; think about the fact that you have a car and a job when millions of people have neither, and are still happy! You didn’t get that promotion? You may not be where you want to be financially right now, but you still have the opportunity, and now more motivation, to get to a better place. Place more stock in what you do have, not what you don’t have; chances are, many others have less than you and still find reasons to be happy.
At the end of the day, I look at it this way: if people in much less developed and much more financially tumultuous countries have been scored as the happiest in the world, there are few circumstances in which we, especially living in the United States, cannot possess high levels of well-being and a genuine happiness in life.
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AUTHOR: Jada Jackson, MS, LMHC – Communicator, Coach & Licensed Mental Health Counselor provides Family Counseling in Dallas Texas. If you are in need of Therapy Services in Dallas Texas you can reach Jada at: (469) 757-5215
Author Editor: Emily Simpson (Intern)