In a survey, researchers at the University of Michigan asked people
what would improve the quality of their lives. The majority of people
surveyed said, "more money." Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi, a best-selling
author and psychologist quips, "If we are so rich why aren't we happy?"
Material things in themselves have failed to make people happy. There is an interesting psychological quirk at work here. We work hard so we can make more money, get more expensive cars, and live in bigger homes. But when we make more money and have more expensive cars and bigger homes, we immediately start feeling that that is not enough. The more we have, the more we want (or need, depending on how you look at it).
Psychologists have even quantified our tendency to want more. On average, we want 25% more than what we have. When we reach that goal, then we up our scale by another 25%. Most of us do it unconsciously. It's just an instinctive behavior gone out of control, much like the appetite for food that has no self-imposed limits.
So what do we really want in order to be happy? Research has shown that material well-being does not improve emotional well-being. In a recent study of one thousand teenagers, Mihali found that those in a low social class reported the most happiness and children in a high social status reported the least.
David Myers and Edward Diener, both professors of psychology, found that while people's personal income has more than doubled between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of people who describe themselves as happy has actually declined.
Those who equate more money with greater happiness are proven to be wrong by recent studies on happiness. Research has shown that more important for our happiness are the non-material things, such as satisfying relationships, work where one feels valued and recognized, good health, happy family life, feeling loved, and enjoyment of music, nature, poetry, sports, or literature. Unfortunately, many of us spend all our time in trying to make more money, which doesn't leave any time for pursuing the things that can really make us happy.
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