What does it take to truly be happy? Research has shown that although we may think money will make us happy, the effect has a ceiling. According to research done by Andrew T. Jebb, and colleagues, the ideal income point is $95,000 for life evaluation and $60,000 to $75,000 for emotional well-being (Jebb et al., 2018).
Interestingly, when comparing variation across world regions – based on data from the Gallup World Poll, which is a representative survey sample of more than 1.7 million individuals from 164 countries – Jebb and his team found that the wealthier the region, the more money was needed to reach satiation. Jebb explains, “This could be because evaluations tend to be more influenced by the standards by which individuals compare themselves to other people” (Jebb, 2018).
The study also uncovered an interesting effect: once the threshold was reached, further increases in income tended to be associated with reduced life satisfaction and a lower level of well-being (Jebb et al., 2018).
It seems that when it comes to happiness, money will only get us so far. What matters more, Jebb and his team uncovered, are higher goals, like achieving lifelong dreams, social support, and community.
Further, too much focus on money and material gains leads to engaging in social comparisons, which could, ironically, lower well-being (Jebb et al., 2018).
Pursuing happiness, another study found, also doesn’t lead to happiness. Conducting four studies in which they investigated how the pursuit of happiness as well as the state of being happy influenced people’s perception of time, Aekyoung Kim of Rutgers University in the US and Sam Maglio of the University of Toronto Scarborough in Canada found that pursuing happiness caused the participants to think of time as scarce (Kim & Maglio, 2018).
Specifically, the researchers’ found that a person’s perception of time scarcity is influenced by their pursuit of (often unattainable) happiness. The feeling that time was scarce lessened for participants who maintained that they had attained their goal of being happy to some degree.
“Time seems to vanish amid the pursuit of happiness,” explains Kim, “but only when seen as a goal requiring continued pursuit” (Kim, 2018).
On the other hand, if someone believes they have achieved happiness, they are left with the time to appreciate this, for instance by keeping a gratitude journal. Kim explains, “Because engaging in experiences and savoring the associated feelings requires more time compared with merely, for instance, buying material goods, feeling a lack of time also leads people to prefer material possessions rather than enjoying leisure experiences” (Kim, 2018).
So what’s the takeaway? Happiness can’t be bought, and it can’t be pursued too much. However, we are learning that there are several factors that do contribute strongly to happiness – such as a sense of meaning, positive relationships, feeling engaged, and achieving our goals. For clinicians, what this means is that through understanding what does and does not bring happiness, they can help their clients find happiness today and for years to come.
Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Course:
Finding Happiness: Positive Interventions in Therapy is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that explores the concept of happiness, from common myths to the overriding factors that directly increase our feelings of contentment.
We will start with a discussion on why you, the clinician, need to know about happiness and how this information can help in your work with clients. We will then uncover mistakes we make when trying to attain happiness and look carefully at the actions we take and the beliefs that do not just obfuscate our happiness efforts, but often leave us less happy. Next, we will explore the ways in which our mindset influences our feelings of happiness and the many ways we can fundamentally change our levels of well-being, not just immediately, but for many years to come. The final section of this course contains exercises you can use with clients to cultivate and sustain a lifelong habit of happiness. Course #40-45 | 2018 | 57 pages | 25 posttest questions
This online course provides instant access to the course materials (PDF download) and CE test. Successful completion of the online CE test (80% required to pass, 3 chances to take) and course evaluation are required to earn a certificate of completion. Click here to learn more. Have a question? Contact us. We’re here to help!
Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within a few days of completion).
Target Audience: Psychologists, Counselors, Social Workers, Marriage & Family Therapist (MFTs), Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), Occupational Therapists (OTs), Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs), School Psychologists, and Teachers