I’ve a question for you…do you think money can buy happiness?

As my career evolved from personal training to wellness coaching, I’ve been challenged to look at the many aspects of what makes an individual truly healthy and happy.  Having a fit body fueled by foods that can provide energy to sustain us throughout our day is essential to achieve our goals and dreams but it is just part of the equation of what makes people “well.”

True wellness encompasses having a fit body, mind, spirit and soul.  We are all in search of a fulfilled, meaningful, purposeful and happy life.  Achieving our fitness goals helps, but it won’t guarantee happiness.  Losing weight brings an enormous sense of accomplishment, and a closet with smaller sizes, but it won’t guarantee happiness.  The field of wellness coaching has evolved because we now know that in order for individuals to sustain healthy lifestyle changes, we must address all of the human components: physical, social, mental, emotional and spiritual.

When we do that, and we take care of our needs in each of those dimensions, we are happier.  And happiness and optimism are the jet fuel of motivation.  Without motivation, lasting change is next to impossible.  That’s why a new diet or exercise plan may help, but we must use them within the context of a more holistic approach.

As you know, I am a contributing author for SparkPeople.com.  SparkPeople is the largest online diet and healthy living community with over 12 million registered members, most who are looking for support with weight loss and healthy eating.  Recognizing that when people are happier they are more motivated and more successful, SparkPeople looks to me to write about other aspects than the technical approach to eating and exercising for health and weight loss.

When Spark asked me to write the article, “Can Money Buy Happiness?” I was intrigued.  No doubt, money affects our happiness levels, but can it actually buy us happiness? 

I asked many of my own clients and friends this very question.  Although most felt that financial worries and having enough to pay the bills was one of life’s greatest stressors, they would not state that money could buy their happiness, or that money has made a great difference in their overall life-satisfaction.  However, how much money we make does seem to be intimately wrapped up with our self-esteem.  When we are struggling financially, we may end up with feelings of failure, which certainly might impact how happy we feel.

Coaching thrust me into the field of Positive Psychology- the study of what makes people flourish and thrive.  So it made sense to me that I might find some scientific based research to answer this question.  Below are my greatest takeaways from my research review, and some suggestions for achieving a balanced attitude about the role money plays in your own life.  And if you would like to read the entire SparkPeople article, click here.

  • Having enough money to meet our basic needs is essential, and financial related worries can impact life-satisfaction, happiness and well-being.  However, it’s important to recognize the difference between what we truly need, and what we want.  We may need a reliable car to get us to our jobs, but do we need the expensive luxury sports car?
  • There is absolutely nothing wrong with working and striving to increase your income. Money can afford us many pleasures and gratifying experiences that are not available to those of lesser means.  But if your attitude is one in which happiness is dependent on always accumulating more, you may end up never really appreciating what you do achieve on the way up.  You can get stuck on a never-ending treadmill to make more and more.
  • Don’t get caught up with the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.  Savor and appreciate your accomplishments and personal possessions, without comparing yourself to others.
  • Spend your energy on creating experiences that will make memories instead of having stuff. Many of life’s greatest pleasures cost very little or no money.
  • Research has shown that the happiest individuals have the strongest commitment and connection to family and friends. Money doesn’t guarantee happiness, but good relationships most certainly do!

So how would you answer the question, “Does money buy happiness?”  I would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts.