Choose Happy

More money doesn’t make people happier. While we need to have our most basic needs met, some people go way beyond basic in their desire to buy their happiness. They might be spinning their wheels.

According to a study by an international team of researchers, while wealth does grant the option of buying lots of stuff, it also impairs our ability to enjoy those things we’re buying.

The first study was conducted with employees of the University of Liège in Belgium and showed that the wealthier the workers were, the less likely they were to savor positive experiences in their lives.

In a second study people 16 – 59 recruited on UBC’s campus were asked to taste a piece of chocolate. Before accepting the chocolate, they had to fill out a brief questionnaire. Half the participants got a questionnaire that included a page with a picture of Canadian money while the other half got a neutral picture. Those primed to think of money spent less time consuming the chocolate and were rated as enjoying it less.

Is it possible that because wealth lets us experience the best that life has to offer, it ultimately undermines our ability to savor life’s little pleasures?

Maybe we need to keep the idea of “enough” in our minds as we set out to accumulate money. And maybe we need to see what we do have as having value, as opposed to always pursuing more, More, MORE.

So much dissatisfaction comes from focusing on what we don’t have that the simple exercise of acknowledging and valuing what we do have can transform our outlooks.

From time to time we have to remind ourselves of what we have to be happy about. That’s part of showing gratitude, of saying ‘thank you’ for what is in our lives. It’s easy to get caught up with what’s missing, with what we think we need or want. But taking the time to say ‘thank you’, to count blessings, to remember what we HAVE, can take us from desirous to satisfied.

According to Jonathan Haidt, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and author or The Happiness Hypothesis, “… happiness and meaning come from getting the right relationship between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.”

He also says, “Happiness doesn’t come entirely from within, but if you ever have to choose between changing your thinking or changing the world to make it conform to your wishes, be sure to choose the former.”

Not everything will always be exactly the way we want it in our lives. But it doesn’t matter what life throws at you, you can decide how you’ll perceive it and deal with it. It can be a momentous event or a small setback. You get to decide if it’s going to throw you off track or if you’re just going to climb over the fickin wall and keep going.

Crap happens, that’s life. It’s how you deal with it that separates the winners from the losers, the happy from the chronically miserable, the optimists from the pessimists. You choose.


Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade wants YOU! Join to get smarter about your money and help others get smarter about theirs. Isn’t it time we eliminated financial illiteracy? Come find me on Google+ and on Twitter.

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33 Responses to “Choose Happy”

  1. So true!! Even in the most dire circumstances can be hidden blessings. Will I allow myself to look past my hurts and find gratefulness?

  2. Love the post. It can never be said enough. Wish more people would listen, but we all probably need the reminder now and then.

  3. Well said. Love the message.

  4. I will be DFF this summer and at my desired weight and fitness level. For me, weight and money always come up when I think about happiness – losing weight and losing mortgage. But the closer I get to both, the more I have to acknowledge that my essential happiness level doesn’t change much. Losing weight and losing debt do remove dissatisfaction, but I think they don’t actively contribute to happiness.

    I finally, finally started a gratitude journal. I always thought it was a fabulous idea, but I felt a bit silly about doing it. I’m only five days in, but I like the exercise of thinking about positive things just before I go to sleep. Best one so far – I love my furnace. It gives me a little happy every time it comes on. I thank goodness it still works and that my house is warm.

  5. When you lose someone, you really appreciate what you’ve lost. Money cannot bring them back. However, having more money would allow you to experience things that would benefit your life such as travel. Having things doesn’t make you happy but doing things you enjoy does!

  6. I’m happy and grateful for…this blog! It gives me a little boost every morning when I sit down at my desk. And, it keeps me on track financially by reminding me to keep my financial long-term goals in mind as I go through day-to-day life.

  7. This is the stuff you just don’t get from anyone else’s financial blog….thanks for who you are Gail!

  8. avatar stamperitis Says:
    January 13, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Great message and one that’s really never sunk in for me. I do hope that it does and that I can be happier as a result.


  9. Is there a ‘like’ button. I would like to ‘like’ many of these responses. 😉

  10. I totally agree! I see so many young people working INSANE hours to earn money to satisfy goals that are ages away, and I just don’t get it. I understand the value in saving for the near and distant future, and I do all of those things, but I also don’t really understand the concept of working like crazy in your 20s and 30s, to the point that you miss your youth, just so you can retire early and live a nice life in your fifties, sixties and beyond.

    Am I crazy to want to enjoy *all* of my life?

  11. So true Gail, love the thread….I choose to be happy

  12. Thanks for reminding me, Julie!

    I live in Yellowknife, in a trailer, which means the furnace is in the centre of the house and therefore is quite loud. I am always grateful to hear the click and hum as it goes on in the morning before I get out of bed

  13. I constantly need to remind myself to be happy. I suppose you could call me a pessimist. I recently purchased a really affordable piece of art that says, “Be happy for this moment; this moment is your life”. It’s hanging in my bedroom and it’s a constant reminder that I have a good life.

  14. Love you blog and I like all comments:)

    Love to read your blogs daily, helps. Thank you Gail and all your readers, great comments

  15. Happiness is… all the little moments and things in life. I’m very aware that buying things doesn’t make you happy. I know the happiness I get everytime I donate something though. Just the thought that my old eyeglasses will let a person from a poorer country see properly or that a donation to the food bank will make some family a little less hungry brings me joy.

  16. “…or climb over the fickin wall and keep going.” Hahaha… Gail, you crack me up! That’s the funniest thing I’ve read all day!

  17. @Julie – OMG! I’m so glad there are others who have that love of the furnace! I remember as a child, I used to LOVE that sound because I’d be all snug in my bed when it would come on. Always made me feel so comfy and safe. I STILL feel that way when I hear it – the comfort of home!

    Love the blog today Gail! I have a nice poster encased in glass in my room with a quote from Maya Angelou: “We need much less than we think we need”. It’s a reminder for simplicity.

    @ Melissa – I agree! I work with people who work like crazy and then look at me when I refuse to add to my work load because I’d rather spend time with my kids when I get home! THAT is priceless!

  18. […] Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Filed under Uncategorized ← Finding the “happiness” on a Sunday […]

  19. […] Choose Happy […]

  20. avatar Elizabeth A Says:
    January 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Too funny about the furnace lovers, I’ve been happy all week because I put the heating mattress pad on the bed! It has two sides, so I decided to turn on both sides and three of my cats have figured out “their” side is warm. I now have some extra slug-a-beds besides me. If I wrote in a journal before bed, every night would start with “Thank you the bed is so warm!”

    Steph, love the “Be happy for this moment; this moment is your life”. Exactly what I am trying to do this year, too.

    Thanks Gail and guys, great inspiration for the new year!

  21. @Julie about losing weight and losing the mortgage: Dr Phil once said that if you are fat and you hate your job and your marriage is in trouble then when you lose your weight you’ll be skinny but still have a sucky job and a crappy marriage.

    If you are rich enough to provide the basics easily for your family then more money for more stuff won’t make you happier if you aren’t happy inside. More money won’t improve your job or make your skinny or whatever.

  22. avatar Independent Says:
    January 15, 2012 at 12:21 am

    ” Is it possible that because wealth lets us experience the best that life has to offer, it ultimately undermines our ability to savor life’s little pleasures?”

    wealth provides the opportunity to have many choices

  23. […]  the first on why parents should make their own happiness a priority, and the second from Gail Val-Oxlade on contentment and money (h/t Simply Frugal.)  These got me thinking on how to be happy, and why I am happy, and what makes […]

  24. My Grandpa just died. Thanks for the positive message.xoxo

  25. […] Gail Vaz-Oxlade – More money does not make people happy. So, would you rather be happy or have more money? I choose happy. […]

  26. I really liked this piece, thanks. So many of my friends and family members are focused on “consuming” and acquiring more, that they don’t even give themselves a chance to enjoy what they already have. To me it is such a waste of resources and time. Life is freaking short and none of our material stuff really ever fills the hole in our hearts. Giving back and doing for others is what fills that hole. That and as you wrote… gratitude with a big ole capital G.

  27. avatar Lynne Miller Says:
    January 16, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Dear Gail,
    I just want to let you know that my husband and I, after 20 years together, retired two years ago this past October. We both worked and had a total annual income ranging from $50,000 to $80,000.
    In that time, using a budget spreadsheet I devised, we paid off our condo, a car, $35,000 in renovations to the apartment and, with the help of our wonderful financial advisor, also had enough money to build up our RSPs (both taxable and non-taxable) so that we both could retire at 62.
    Now, with our investment income and a small pension we have been able to SAVE $5,000.00 while in retirement!!! (We will of course talk to our financial adviser to see what she thinks we should do with the savings.)
    Later I would like to tell you my personal the story of being bankrupt in my 40s to being happy and very solvent now.
    Yours truly,
    Lynne Miller
    aka Mrs. Savings Pants (This is the name our financial planner gave me.)

  28. Gail.

    I can’t THANK you enough.

    First for providing the tools (and kick in the pants!!) to get me on the road to being DFF. I know it’s going to take longer than I care to imagine…but I’m committed!

    And Second? For your incredible ability to post topics/advice on the days I need to see it the most.

    You ROCK!!!

  29. This is so true. Sometimes we’re so focused on what’s ahead that we completely miss what we’ve been asking for. That’s a shame!

  30. […] Choose Happy by Gail Vaz-Oxlade […]

  31. […] apparent, I’m a fan of Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s common-sense approach to personal finance. In a recent post on her blog, Gail writes on the importance of appreciating what we have instead of what we cannot acquire […]

  32. […] On her blog, she posted: […]

  33. be taught; they have to be cultivated…

    in other ways. blogging is a key way to helping your child gain these skills. the main essential skill to have is to be able to concentrate long enough to learn a subject. young children usually have very short attention spans…

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