Money really can buy happiness

How much would you pay for a lifetime of happiness? Studies show money really can buy happiness…when you’re paying it forward.

A wealth of research is increasingly showing that spending money on others may actually make you happier, repeatedly demonstrating that there’s a direct link between generosity and happiness.

We’re hardwired to give of ourselves

Being generous has been shown to stimulate the area of the brain associated with reward systems—called the striatum. In a study published in Nature, researchers used MRI to investigate the brain mechanisms at work. They found that “striatal activity during generous decisions is directly related to changes in happiness,” and plays a fundamental role in linking generosity with happiness.

Altruism leads to generosity

“Generous decisions” apply to more than just financial actions; they also apply to times when we give of ourselves, sharing kindness or compassion. Studies have shown that being kind to others decreases stress levels and improves mental health. They’ve also shown that being kind to others is more beneficial psychologically than being kind to yourself.

According to “Happy People Become Happier Through Kindness,” a study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine at National Institutes of Health, generosity creates a psychological feedback loop with happiness, writing that “happy people are inclined to be more altruistic, and altruism makes them happier.”

Generosity leads to happiness

One study published in Science Magazine revealed the real connection between money and happiness, showing that spending more of one’s income on others predicted greater happiness. “Participants who were randomly assigned to spend money on others experienced greater happiness than those assigned to spend money on themselves.”

In the study, conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia, one group of participants (we’ll call them Group 1) recalled a previous purchase made for themselves while another group recalled a purchase they made for someone else (Group 2). Then they were asked to report their happiness. Afterward, researchers gave participants small sums of money and told them they could either spend it on themselves or someone else. In the end, Group 2 not only reported feeling happier, but they also were more likely to spend the money on someone else.

And happiness leads to altruism

It’s a virtuous cycle: altruism leads to generosity, generosity leads to happiness, and happiness leads to even greater altruism. So yes, money can buy you happiness. But it isn’t necessarily the cash per se; it’s the actual giving that leads to happiness. So whether you’re giving time, money, talent or kindness, you’re doing as much for your own well-being as you are for others.

You may also like 16 Ways to Feel Happier in an Hour or Less.

Character Lives