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The Money-Happiness Correlation: How Far Does Money Get You in a World Centred Around it?

Does money buy happiness? An age-old question provoked by a piece of paper lighter than a feather, with unlimited potential to weigh down its owners. To this question, there still is no clear-cut answer.

Gaining perspective

I immediately thought no, how can money buy happiness? But as I sit here writing this on my MacBook in the warmth of a local café in Nottingham (recently named the poorest place in the country) sipping my £4 vanilla latte, I am greeted with the power of perspective. Across the street from me is a man sitting in a doorway of what appears to be a closed-down shop, in one hand he's holding a 'spare change' sign, and in the other, an empty coffee cup- which for the duration of my stay remains empty as he is disregarded by passers-by. I assume he would be a lot happier if his cup was full, he could buy a hot meal or a place to sleep where he would only have to hear the rain whilst it poured, as opposed to feeling it.

Now I recognise that I am able to write this from a privileged position that is not present within everyone's realm of reality. I have always had a roof over my head, and never once had to worry about where my next meal would come from, I also have access to higher education which will inevitably set me up with a bright future. All of these things would not be possible without money, so it isn't reasonable to answer this question as simply black or white. Money is intrinsic to well-being, and its utility of it is undeniable. A lack of money sees basic human needs as unable to be met; thus of course a person being held economically captive by their poverty, without access to bare necessities, is unlikely to be as happy as someone who is able to make ends meet comfortably.

The money-happiness correlation

But let's talk about the money-happiness link once all basic needs have been met. We live in a society driven by money; it is the catalyst that enables the world to spin the way it does and is even depicted as the '6th sense allowing you to enjoy the other 5'. If this is the case, then why can't it solve all the problems of mankind? The answer to this is that money can only bring temporary happiness to materialistic problems. For example, more often than not people confuse the spikes of dopamine you get from buying something that excites you with real fulfilled happiness; you are given a window of temporary happiness, but once the novelty wears off you're back to square one. In today’s society, money is viewed as a stable predictor of happiness, and the way our everyday lives are structured provides constant reminders of its importance, but you can’t allow this to blur your vision. If deep in your core you are a miserable person, money is just going to magnify that. Money can't buy happiness if you aren't truly happy, it will leave you chasing after the idea of happiness without ever having experienced it.

Mind over matter

Decade-old studies have even shown that after a person progresses to a salary above $75,000, happiness plateaus, and that real happiness is achieved through mindset- not money itself. An individual's perception of the importance of money accounts for some of the perceived money-happiness correlation. If you allow the idea of wealth to consume you whole, then, of course, you are going to believe money buys happiness- but when is enough, enough? This mindset will have you constantly striving for more and leave you as empty and greedier than ever. You need to start noticing the little, but great things in life and enjoying them for what they are. We as humans are not here to be driven solely by monetary values, but sometimes our brains are so over-consumed we lose sight of the joys in life that come at no cost at all. Find joy in being grateful for what you have, instead of wishing for what you don't; spend time with friends and family and you will find the greatest happiness comes from genuine human connection, which is in fact priceless.

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