Can I Buy Happiness

Can You Buy Happiness?  

We live in a society where adverts, magazines and social media are telling us that if we focus on how we look, what possessions we own and how much money we have that we will be seen as being successful and winning at life. However, studies in the USA found that the more a person credited their happiness to money and belongings the higher their levels of depression and anxiety were. This has been found in other studies across different age groups and ethnicities. 

Focusing on Materialistic Things

One reason why people who focus on materialistic things are more likely to be unhappy is that they have lower levels of gratitude for what they already have. They look at their lives and see what they feel is lacking rather than all the good things they already have. Studies have shown that the higher you score on materialism questionnaires the more you are disappointed and disgruntled not just with the amount of enjoyment in your life but also with your friendships and romantic relationships.  

Our Emotions and happiness

We have all been there. You thought the new car, relationship, or promotion would give you happiness. Often, we are trying to fill a need or bury a negative emotion that we don’t want to face. This is why when we get the car, start a new relationship, or get the promotion with the great office we don’t feel any happier and we can actually feel worse. Don’t get me wrong. There are things we need in life. We need money to survive, we need a place to live and so on. But once these needs are met adding more and more material possessions is not going to significantly increase our happiness levels. 

Old Possessions

Have a look in your attic or garage and you will find possessions that you have totally forgotten about. Once upon a time, you were absolutely thrilled to get, let’s say a coffee machine. For a brief period of time, you used it frequently and it took pride and place in your kitchen. Fast forward 3 years later and it is in your attic. You have completely forgotten about it and possibly even replaced it with a newer “better” model. Now remember a trip or experience that you had that every time you think about it your face breaks out into a smile and you think of the lasting impact that had on you personally.

For example, a holiday to Turkey. You may think about how the holiday reminded you to slow down and prioritise being present with your family more day to day and not just when you are on holiday. You may remember at a family lunch on the beach how one of you laughed so much their milkshake came out of their nose!  Now, if you had to pick between the coffee machine that sits in the garage or the holiday that still makes you laugh today what would you pick? The next time you are just about to put something in your Amazon basket ask two questions.

  1. Firstly, will this end up in the attic/garage/under the stairs in 3 years?
  2. And secondly, would this money be better spent on or saving towards an experience or something that will benefit me in the long term?

There is a quote by Epicurus that still rings true today;

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for”.

Where to Start to Achieve Happiness

If you want a quick way to increase your happiness and well-being levels, then start a gratitude journal. Not only will it help you see that you have a lot of good going on in your life, but it also trains your brain to look out for good moments during your day. You may find that when you are driving you get cut up by a bad driver but you say to yourself I am so grateful we didn’t crash. You may have waited over an hour for your takeaway to be delivered but you are grateful that you can even afford to order takeaway. This isn’t toxic positivity. It is about acknowledging everything that happens in life, the good and the bad. Our mind has evolved to focus on the negative to try and protect ourselves.

Gratitude helps with happiness

However, the flip side is that we can feel discouraged and low. Gratitude helps you to notice the negative AND to shift your focus to the positive so that you know things are not as bad as they seem and that things will get better. Look back through your life and see that you have a 100% success rate of surviving every bad event that has happened to you. The result may not have been what you would have liked but you survived it and have been happy since.

What are you Grateful for?

  Can you name three things that you are grateful for? I’ll start:

  1. I am grateful that Extracellular is starting to provide more appointments.
  2. I am sooooo grateful for” The Happy Geek “who helps Extracellular with our social media. We couldn’t do this on our own. 
  3. I am grateful to every person that reads this blog. It is great to be able to produce something that makes people think. 


  1. Dittmar H, Bond R, Hurst M, Kasser T. The relationship between materialism and personal well-being: a meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; 107(5):879-924.
  2. Sang J-A, Carpenter TP, Roberts JA, Frisch MB, Carlisle RD. Why are materialists less happy? The role of gratitude and need satisfaction in the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction. Personality and Individual Differences; 2014; 64:62-66.

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