The first part of this post’s title may sound cliché, yet somehow most of us still try to buy happiness with money or get it through material things purchased with money. And this attempt to buy happiness inevitably fails no matter how hard we try. It is true that increase in income raises our level of day-to-day contentment and life satisfaction, but only up to a certain amount:
And even though we have these statistics, some of us still believe that more money will bring us more happiness. And we keep chasing it harder and harder. A few years ago I also thought this was true until I realized that the more things I bought, the more unhappy I became. I was shopping almost every day and every new thing was exciting and thrilling but only for a few seconds. Underneath all this pursuit of happiness through material things was a really sad girl who was lonely, broken and dissatisfied with herself and her life. I hoped that all those nice things, clothes and makeup would cover up and hide how unhappy I really felt inside. But they didn’t. I was over my head in debt and I was very lonely. I was also very insecure. I thought that without my shoes, dresses, nice things, expensive makeup, blonde hair, and perfect tan, people would not like me. I judged myself and I judged others. I set these unrealistic expectations for myself and nothing was good enough. I always wanted more. For the longest time I thought my only value was in how I looked.
There finally came a point when I realized that the things I was buying and the image I was portraying will never fix how I felt inside. I realized that I really needed to make some changes in my life. I also got sick and tired of being broke but looking like I had it all (think 30,000 millionaires in Dallas). So I decided to get out of debt and get rid of all the anxiety I was feeling from having it. This was a good first step. I definitely felt better once I paid off all those credit cards. The next step was to figure out what happiness really meant for me. I had to figure out what was it that I really wanted since the material things weren’t doing it for me. This task took some retrospection and a lot of emotional work.
What I discovered was that I really wanted things that couldn’t be bought. I missed real and meaningful relationships and experiences with other people. I missed having those by not having them with my family. I also realized that my life lacked meaning and purpose. I was going to church but I wasn’t really buying into what was “sold” to me so I wanted to discover what spirituality really meant for me. I’m still figuring it out, but I know so far as it’s not about religious rituals and facades, it’s very personal and unique to each and one of us. Lastly I realized that I am the happiest when I am doing the things I love. For me this includes:
- Doing anything outdoors ( I love nature and being around it really makes me happy)
- Spending time with my dogs ( Their constant never-ending happiness is really contagious)
- Playing sports with friends and making new friends while playing sports ( It’s a win-win)
- Visiting new places ( travel is one of my biggest passions and really makes me happy)
- Learning new things ( I really enjoy learning, I always have maybe that’s why I went all the way for an MBA)
There’s so many more things on my list that have nothing to do with material stuff. I might have to write a post about that 🙂 Your list might differ from mine and I’d love to hear about some of the non-material things that make you happy. One thing I have learned for myself is that true happiness comes from having meaningful relationships with others, doing work that we are passionate about and enjoy, helping others, and contributing to the world. I am much happier now that I have some of those and working on the others. After all, this kind of happiness is priceless and can NEVER be bought.