Winning it big in a lottery doesn’t guarantee happiness, regardless of the size of the jackpot. So if money can’t guarantee a state of bliss for us, what can?
The two-word answer to that question seems to be: Nothing material. Happiness isn’t for sale. But you can earn it by the way you live your life.
Recently our pastor told us about a study that found the key to happiness is knowing that you have made a difference in this life, and there are lots of ways to do that. Righting a wrong, solving a problem, loving the unlovable, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, resettling refugees, taking care of the environment, building a school in a devastated land, and tutoring a child in your neighborhood are just a few of the things that give meaning to our lives. Many local newspapers run a weekly list of non-profit organizations needing volunteer help. As you read through them ask yourself, “Is this volunteer work what God is calling me to do? Will it contribute to the happiness I seek?” The only way to find out is to give it a try.
Another source of happiness unrelated to money is relationships. A few weeks ago I heard an intriguing TED talk titled: “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness.” Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist and Professor at Harvard Medical School, is director of a longitudinal study that has tracked the health and mental well-being of a group of 724 American men for 75 years. Half of the subjects were sophomores at Harvard when this intriguing study started and the other half were from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. They have all been interviewed and received physical exams every two years. The group included bricklayers and factory workers, doctor and lawyers and a President of the United States. Sixty subjects, now in their 90s, are still living.
What have they learned from this exhaustive research? “Well,” Dr. Waldinger said, “the lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder. The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”
In an Inward/Outward article titled “Money Matters,” the author David G. Meyers asked whether our happiness was floating upward with the rising economic tide and concluded it wasn’t. “I call this soaring wealth and shrinking spirit ‘The American Paradox,’” he said. “We have big houses and broken homes, high incomes and low morale. … We excel at making a living but often fail at making a life. We celebrate our prosperity but yearn for purpose.”
In a very powerful way each of the three sources I’ve referenced have said, “Money doesn’t buy happiness.” I also read the back of a Powerball ticket and it doesn’t say a single thing about guaranteeing happiness. Because money isn’t the answer, I’m wondering: If you haven’t found happiness, where will you look for it?
by Judy Osgood