Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Spending Your Way To Happiness!

We recently got a new TV to sit in our living room.  It replaced our old television set dating back to the Cretaceous Period.  Of course, buying the set, getting it home, turning it on, watching some shows, was all enjoyable.  Even exciting.  But in the end of the day, does that TV make me happier?  Does it bring more joy to my life than the other set?  And what makes us happy in the long run anyhow? 

 I think it’s interesting that recent scientific studies have attempted to answer these questions, and have led to some fascinating conclusions.  Some of the studies have also confirmed what religious folk have been saying all along.  You can read several summaries of these studies online.

Here are some of their findings regarding money and wealth. 

1.        People who don’t have enough to live a decent life, are not as happy as people who do.  In this sense, money does buy us happiness!  But after saying this, when we have enough to be comfortable, more money doesn’t have much of an effect on our happiness--if any at all.  We think it does, but it doesn’t.  
2.       Materialistic people are less happy than non-materialist folk.  It seems that when we spend our energy trying to get more wealth, we’re actually spending our time focusing on what we don’t have instead of enjoying what we do have.  Happy people enjoy what they do have.

3.       Spending money on experiences leads to more happiness than spending money on more stuff.  People seldom look back on their lives and fondly remember their big screen television.  They remember the good experiences they shared with people they cared about.  If you spend money on a meal with your family and friends you have the happiness of looking forward to the meal, the happiness of the meal, and the happiness of the memories from that meal.  
4.       Besides experiences, spending money to help others also promotes happiness.  People who use some of their wealth to help other people and make the world better tend to get more joy out of living.  Even children are happier when they share their things with others.

5.       Related to the finding above, volunteering at tasks to help others also tends to make people happier.  Volunteering also strengthens our mental health, and help us live longer, reducing our risk of early death.  And it  gives us a greater sense of well-being and decreases depression.

So if you want to live a happy life, join Maple Avenue, where you can do all of the things above! 

I do wonder, when I look at the longevity of our congregation, if these findings don’t play a role in that long life.  Most of us have enough money to be comfortable (point #1), and we try not to be materialistic (point #2).  We are actively sharing experiences (point #3), helping others (point #4), and volunteering (point #5).  We’ve got most, if not all, of the 5 findings covered.  And since another study suggests that happy people live longer, I understand why we have a congregation full of long-living people!

I may enjoy our television set, but it doesn’t really make me a happier person.  The things that do make me happier are the time, energy, and resources I can share with the people of Maple Avenue and the world around me.  The things that do make me happier are the experiences I share with my friends and family.  Those are the things that truly make a lasting difference in the end.  Maybe money can help bring us happiness if we spend it on the right things.  Let’s spend it on the Kingdom of God.

In God’s Peace;