Money and Happiness: What's the Connection to Stress?

As a licensed therapist, keeping up with current studies and information is an important part of my professional development. One of the listserves I subscribe to, moderated by Dr. Ken Pope, helps me keep up with new articles, news pieces, and referrals/requests.  Dr. Pope spends time reading through the articles himself and forwards brief excerpts from and a link to these articles to the list of subscribers. What I like about this listserve is that he lets us know about  articles from a variety of resources, not just psychology-peer related journals. So it gives a nice balance to the information that I can keep or let go.

One of the articles that Dr. Pope shared was from the Wall Street Journal, “Can Money Buy You Happiness?” As a stress coach and therapist, a human being, friend, idealist, and author,  I’ve often heard this question and have often asked it. People often talk about if they had more money how they will be happier and things will be better for them. And according to the article, that, in part, may be true.

However, the crux of the article was what gripped me, as it resonated with what I so often hear and believe: experiences last longer than material goods. And as I’ve written before, moments really make a difference.

Allow me a moment (no pun intended here) to provide an example. When I bought a new car, yes, that was a happy time and I enjoyed it. However, the happiness from that faded, because, as the article points out and as it does happen with us, we adapt to what’s familiar. We become “comfortable” with what is around us day in and day out. Material things tend to do this. Think about that new phone you bought or gadget or TV. Do you experience a similar level of excitement/happiness/joy as you did when you first got it?

When I stayed at two different ashrams in India last December and visited family, I can reflect upon those experiences six months later, and the bliss I experience is not something I can describe. It doesn’t go away. It hasn’t, even as I think about it right now in this moment typing this sentence.  In the article, the researchers reference how our experiences not only meet some of our individual needs, they are not marked for competition. We cannot “one-up” someone’s experience. While that can be done with material goods, that’s more of a challenge to do with an experience, because those are fingerprinted.  No two experiences can ever be alike.

In essence, then, it’s the journey that matters and not the destination. And if it’s the experiences that count, will it make a difference if these are ordinary or extraordinary? And how does this relate to your experience of stress?

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