Money, money, money. Abba sang about it in the 70s, whilst in the 80s it was too tight to mention for Simply Red. Today, it’s both the lifeblood of the economy and, for some, the root of all evil. According to The Beatles it can’t buy you love, whilst others believe that it makes the world go round.
And whilst the headline at the top of this article may sound like the title of yet another ditty from a twentieth century beat band, it is in fact the name of the research paper published by Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson which summarises decades of study into the relationship between money and happiness.
In theory, of course, money is meant to bring you great joy and security. It affords you more choice, allows you to do what you want, reduces worry and harm, and provides you with greater leisure time to spend with family and friends. So what’s the big problem? Well, apparently, we’re very bad at spending it – despite what our credit card bills might suggest.
According to the experts, we spend too much money on things that we expect will make us happy but actually don’t. Often these are material items that provide an instant yet temporary buzz. Like expensive clothing or sports equipment that rarely gets an outing. Or shiny Le Creuset pans that look great in the kitchen but rarely get used. Or the vintage car that never leaves the garage for fear of being scratched. Or the expensive yacht in St Tropez you never get time to sail.
Okay, I’ll put you down for just the pots and pans.
So how are we supposed to spend money in order to maximise happiness when giving gifts?
Buy either ‘experiences’ (a box at the theatre, a pair of tickets to a sporting event, a weekend break at a luxury spa etc)
Spend your money on a few small pleasures instead of one big ticket item
To prove this theory, a couple of academics called Leif Nelson and Tom Meyvis decided to offer volunteers a three minute massage.
(That was their story and, to be fair, they’ve stuck to it right throughout the court case.)
In their experiment one group of volunteers were given a continuous three minute massage, whilst the other had a twenty second break in the middle. Not long enough to nip out for a fag but just enough time to get your breath back and adjust your towel.
Which massage was enjoyed the most? The one with the short break in the middle because it stopped people from becoming acclimatised.
So here’s a bit of pop philosophy for you ~ the enemy of happiness is familiarity and boredom.
Psychologists even have a name for it – Hedonic Adaptation. It’s a sad fact but the more we get used to something, the more we take it for granted, and the less pleasure we derive from it.
So, at Christmas buy lots of small, different pleasurable things for the ones you love and you’ll both get more pleasure overall and feel happier.
My youngest son bought me a ticket for me to go to a rugby game with him last Christmas ~ hence the photo. Hope he does that next Christmas.