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  • Writer's pictureZach

Money and Happiness Need a Divorce

Updated: Feb 22, 2019

Divorce is one of the best inventions than humanity has ever created.  Sometimes, couples are just toxic.  They bicker or they constantly cause problems for the people around them, and for everyone's sake, they need a drastic measure to make the world a better place, free of their squabbles. That drastic measure is divorce, and right now our society needs to rend asunder two things that are far too intertwined; two concepts whose relationship creates massive problems throughout the world.

Happiness and money need to be split up.  Our perception of their inter-relatedness runs toxically deep.  I'll bet you and everyone around you has thought at multiple times in your life, "I'd be happier if I had X amount of money" or "I'd be so happy if I could afford X".  And it's not your fault that you've been conditioned to feel that way.  Almost every advertisement you see, and you see hundreds of advertisements a day, reinforces that idea, that connection between spending money and being happy.  Over time, that bombardment of materialistic propaganda wins over and we KNOW it's true.  It's reinforced by biology because our brains reward us with a big, but temporary, hit of dopamine when we buy new stuff.  It's that feeling of excitement you get when you have a shiny new toy.  

And the more you buy, the more often you get that dopamine spike.  We even have a term for it, "retail therapy" where we make ourselves happy by buying things.  The problem is that this form of happiness quickly fades, and like any drug addict, we need that hit again.  So we buy more and more things, which can cause us to go into debt, and certainly does end up filling the oceans with plastic and our air with pollution that is a byproduct of the creation of all that stuff we have to buy to get our dopamine hits.   The relationship between money and happiness is making us massively in debt and wrecking the only planet we have to call home.  

That's why I'm calling on money and happiness to get a divorce, and I have a great way for you to help those concepts separate in your mind.  This week, go and do one fun free thing here in the UAE.  Local magazines and newspapers like The National, Timeout and What's On all frequently (seriously, like twice a month) post lists of dozens of free activities in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, RAK, and all the other Emirates.  In January alone they've posted about free cinema events, free museums, great hiking trails, free art galleries, great events on the beach like the Kite festival on Kite Beach, bird watching, ladies nights, camel racing, free concerts and performances, yoga classes, and so many more!  I'll bet, if you wanted to, you could do 10 things this month and not pay a single dirham in the process.  

The fact that these activities are free and bring us happiness is critical.  The more practice we get at doing fun, free things, the less we will automatically connect happiness with money. 

Repeated exposure to the reality that happiness doesn't have to come at a financial cost will help overcome years of conditioning, even if it takes time.  And it's totally fine that it takes time and more free activities for us to really get this at a fundamental level, because that just means we will do more fun stuff, be happier, and spend less money, which is a great win-win-win situation.  

If it helps, there is lots of science and evidence behind this.  Researchers have found that lottery winners may be no happier than the rest of the population (although there is conflicting data on this).   Around the world, happiness levels don't go up after you have enough money to safely feed, clothe, and house your family.  If you've traveled or lived in a 3rd world country, you know that the people there with far fewer possessions, still have a great deal of happiness, and that rich people have no monopoly on smiles.  

It's time for you to split up Money and Happiness.  You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. 

Thanks to The National for publishing this!

If you liked this post, come join the discussion over at The Happiest Teacher Facebook Group! I would love to have your voice added to the discussion! Also, if you're into that Twitter life, come follow me!

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