Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Hippies Were Right All Along

Jump!One of the drivers of the economic growth engine is our perception that greater wealth - more money, more "stuff" - will make us happier.  But there is surprisingly little evidence for this, once basic needs are met.  In 2006 the Financial Times, no less, published an article entitled The Hippies Were Right All Along About Happiness.  "The hippies, the Greens, the road protesters, the down-shifters, the slow-food movement – all are having their quiet revenge.", writes author Andrew Oswald.  "Routinely derided, the ideas of these down-to-earth philosophers are being confirmed by new statistical work by psychologists and economists."  He goes on to explain that self-reported levels of happiness in Britain and the US have hardly changed over the past half century, even as those societies have become immensely richer in material terms.

In the same vein, here is a recent report from the Stanford Business School: If Money Doesn't Make You Happy, Consider Time. They write: "Very little research corroborates the idea that more money leads to more happiness... In fact, even the mere mention of money can result in individuals being less likely to engage in behaviors linked to personal happiness, such as helping others, donating to charity, or socializing with friends and family. After being prompted to think about wealth, individuals work more, and their ability to enjoy small moments becomes significantly compromised."  Instead, say the authors, slowing down, inhabiting the present moment, and focusing on using time rather than spending money are likely to foster the kind of interpersonal and emotional connections that are associated with happiness.

Read the whole article here.

Image courtesy of Flickr user danorbit, licensed under Creative Commons.

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