“I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” These are the lyrics to a very popular Beatles song but is this statement true? Could money buy you love? I believe it could and I certainly feel more love when I am spending my hard earned cash on someone other than myself. Whether I am forking out a small fortune on a gift or I’m scraping up the cash, I find that whenever I see something that I know a certain person will like, I awaken my happy hormone.
I have tried and tested this theory for quite a while as I was curious to know if my endorphins increased if I spent more. In other words if I increased the price tag did I increase my happiness? Nope, whether I spent £100 on a gift or 100 pence the emotional high was still the same. This goes to show that the brain is in love with the act of buying and the process of giving. It is this selfless act which heightens those feelings of complete and utter contentment. Whenever I receive that pull to buy a gift for someone with no ulterior motive other than to simply dispense happiness, I am filled with a rush of joy, a feeling that I wish I could bottle up and take by the spoonful whenever it was required.
It is always nice to have a bit of extra cash in the bank and when I receive it do I spend it wisely? Sadly, no… In today’s world where we are encouraged to live up to the Jones’s, it is hard to resist blowing the lot on extravagances. I often convince myself that I need a certain product simply because a friend has it or because it looks good but I never ask myself “do I really need it?” Sometimes I find myself saving like mad for that ‘to die for’ designer handbag or pair of shoes which creates a rollercoaster high for a while, then causes me to plummet down to earth with a bang. Why? Because my mind quickly becomes accustomed to seeing that new bag and the joy soon dissipates. I actually gain more pleasure from buying a friend a drink, donating a percentage of my earnings to charity or buying a gift for a member of my family. Taking this one step further, I secrete even more happy hormones when I am buying spontaneously rather than buying for a birthday or Christmas present. So whenever I come into a sum of cash nowadays, I keep a little aside for myself and use the rest to bring happiness to others.
Whilst it is natural to want to earn the big bucks, I know that my mind would soon adjust to that extra monthly income. After a while that extra £10,000 per year would mean nothing to me as I would become used to it. This increase would also do very little to affect the lives of my nearest and dearest. My sweet little cousin would still be a widower who misses her husband with every second that passes and my elderly uncle would still have to donate round the clock care to his severely disabled wife whom he adores. I may not be one of the wealthiest people in the world but my humble income keeps my head above water. In comparison to how difficult some people have it; my salary makes me feel wealthy. Why? Because I know that when I spend my hard earned cash on someone, the amount of pleasure that I give to that individual makes me feel as though I am a millionaire, it also makes me feel ‘alive’ a feeling that I never receive when unwrapping a new laptop.
I decided to undertake some online research to find out if anyone else felt the same way or if I am a just a mere oddity. To my amazement I came across a study carried out in the UK which invited a staggering 800 people to take part in a survey. They were asked personal questions with regard to their finances. It was important to declare the amount of money they earned per month and to reveal how much of this income was used to pay bills, go towards the cost of living and the occasional treat. They were then asked to evaluate their level of happiness, with number 1 being the lowest and number 10 being the highest. Only 10% of people rated their happiness above four, 90% of people voted between one and three. This showed that settling bills and paying for groceries did very little for the happy hormone. Whilst people felt more settled paying their bills they did not experience an intense feeling of elation.
I can relate to this as I know that my bills have to be paid whether I want to or not. However, when I choose to donate to a charity or dip into my handbag to find the last Rolo for my grand-daughter I am overcome with joy. Therefore, those people who gain pleasure from the art of giving are more likely to be part of bigger friendships, a warmer, closer family and grateful people from around the globe. This thoughtful and caring approach has opened many doors for me. Only recently I acquired a wonderful friend whilst at a Zumba class. I simply made small talk with the lady next to me, shared a few laughs with regard to my awkward moves and asked if I could buy her a coffee. She graciously accepted and now she is no longer the woman in the purple leotard. She is Janet and she has become someone who has made a valuable contribution to my life. I could not imagine my world without her in it.
Not content to let one example satisfy my desire for answers, I delved a little deeper. In a supervised experiment, 50 subjects were split into two groups and given a small amount of money to spend, the amount of pounds and pence that each person was given varied between £2.00 and £10. Instructions were to spend the money that same afternoon. One group were told to spend it on something which would bring them pleasure whilst the other was told to spend it on someone. When the task had been completed, both groups were asked to describe their feelings and rate their happiness level. Yep, you’ve guessed it, the group who spent the money on others rated their happiness between 8 and ten even though they were simply following instructions and may not have chosen to spend it that way unless told to do so.
Personally myself, I have witnessed the changes which can take place when people are promoted and earn a generous income. Friends of mine who climbed the career ladder at mammoth speed started to become more and more distant until they no longer wanted to stay in touch. It seemed that the more they earned, the less they wanted me in their lives. They never stopped to think that I might need them or miss them. We only have to imagine having a large sum of money to conjure up images of a large mansion, posh cars and a huge pool. We become so carried away with creating our fantasies that we rarely spare a second thought to the people who used to mean so much to us. Those who put their own selfish needs first are usually the ones who never find the meaning of true contentment as they make money their God. They forget that people can also bring happiness too. These are the ones who probably visit their 80 year old mother once a month and never ring her during the week to see how she is. They only come face to face with their selfishness when their conscience is pricked. This was demonstrated when a bunch of students were asked to take a test and mark their own answers. Before they were allowed to pencil in a tick or a cross, they were asked to either name the Ten Commandments or list the last ten films they had watched. Those who chose to list the Ten Commandments felt more compelled to mark honestly than those who chose to name the movies. This confirmed that when made to feel bad about our behaviour we are more likely to take note of our actions and demonstrate thought and compassion.
I think that companies should introduce staff to insightful ways to spend their hard earned cash. Most companies make a voluntary contribution around Christmas time to a good cause, they often ask colleagues to donate a small sum. This act of giving could be used to encourage staff to make personal donations to a charity of their choice, one which may have personal meaning to them. This could help create a band of workers who learn that money can buy happiness not only for them but for others too. They can then start to feel that wonderful sweep of contentment which can only be experienced through the art of giving.
To put it in a nutshell…I have discovered that my happiness hormone is not ignited by a great job, company car or posh house. These labels only provide a limited amount of satisfaction. To spark up those endorphins, I simply need to splash out on someone who would really appreciate it. Take a look in your purse right now and allow a long lost friend to spring to mind, someone who would really appreciate a little pick me up. Show him or her that you care and repair that broken bond by dispensing some happiness. This love will be returned to you tenfold and you will resonate with feelings so heavenly you will feel like an angel here on earth…