I was interested to read an article on happiness in today’s Guardian, which suggested that indeed money might make you happy.
Hardly a surprise when it’s a question from Davos, abounding as it does in people who value money a great deal, but happiness is one of those tricky questions that we all juggle with. Generally, you know if you’re happy, but defining quite why can often be difficult.
You’re certainly happy when you recover from illness, or when your headache disappears. You’re happy when you see loved ones you’ve been missing.
But many of us – especially in the west – have trouble differentiating happiness from comfort, and even more problem differentiating it from pleasure.
Comfort can certainly be helped by money – money buys decent housing, central heating, comfy sofas and lots of gewgaws.
And pleasure can certainly be helped by money – money enables you to travel, to indulge your hobbies, to buy new clothes – all those things will give you pleasure. But I feel that happiness is something different – it requires meaning.
Meaningless sex, meaningless relationships, meaningless activities, and buying meaningless things may all give pleasure while they’re being indulged in. But long-term, they may actually lead to unhappiness just like overdrinking leads to a hangover.
Human beings require purpose in order to obtain satisfaction, and pleasure doesn’t necessarily lead to satisfaction – the wonderful meal that you know is putting pounds on you, spending time with the interesting man that you know perfectly well can live without you.
It is only a minor example, but I love pratting about with fabric. Purchasing new fabric or trimmings to sew with gives me pleasure, and the sewing itself also gives me pleasure while I’m doing it. But it’s the achievement of creating something that actually gives me happiness. If I sew and cock it up – which I frequently do – the end result is dissatisfaction, not happiness, although the activity itself was the same.
Money is useful here, because money increases my pleasure – the more money I have, the more money I can spend on sewing materials. But I also know that if I didn’t have a cent, I’d still be out there, pressing leaves, making collages, tearing up fabric and weaving it to make something new, finding some way to be creative, because it is the being creative that is absolutely necessary to my psyche.
For other people, it’s other things. Being close to family, perhaps, which gives most people a warm, fuzzy feeling that nothing else can matc. But whatever it is, it pays each person to work out what it is, and focus on that. That is the way to true happiness, such as anyone can attain it in this life.