Striving for more money and what it can buy is the North American way. After all, isn’t it obvious that more money, a bigger house, swimming pool in the back yard, three-car garage and the cars to fill them is a straight road to a happier life?

When every advertisement on television leads us to believe that life will be a whole lot better when we have a new Ram Truck, another diamond, or a Disney World vacation, or living like a celebrity, it’s easy to want all those things and believe that they’ll make us happier.

Don’t get me wrong

There’s not one thing wrong with having any of those. Greater prosperity is a good thing.

Who doesn’t want to enjoy fabulous vacations, live in a comfortable home, and drive nice new vehicles?

The problem is, they have little or nothing to do with sustained happiness. That’s because having lots of stuff, and having a happy heart are as different and unconnected as algebra and armadillos.

It’s like saying, the more armadillos I accumulate, the better I’ll be at algebra, and the happier my life will be. Huh?

Lack and lots

I’ve known extremely happy people who had little in material wealth, and well-off folks for whom no amount of money could make them happy.

I’m not for a moment saying that being poor will mean happiness, and riches will make you miserable because the opposite could be just as true—which proves my point.

When money does make you happy

After certain basic needs are taken care of and some fun wants achieved, most people end up at the same place on their happiness scale—about where they were before. Happiness is essentially an inside job. Except for one area.

Giving and helping others has universally been shown to make the giver happier.

Why? We’re just wired that way.

Last year, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. To say that I’m smitten would be an understatement. Nothing gives me more pleasure than giving to this little child. I take her a gift whenever I visit. I want to treat her to all kinds of pleasant experiences.

I’m using my money to make her happy, and it’s making me happy.

Think about the happiest times in your life. I’m guessing that most of them include blessing someone else, and making life happier, better, or easier for another person, even a stranger.

The National Institute of Health, in a study a few years ago, discovered that giving activates regions of your brain associated with trust, pleasure, and connection by releasing endorphins that give you a “happy high.”

So money or no money, making someone else happy will make you happy.

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