Money doesn’t buy happiness, at least according to many psychologists. You can read PART I of my series on money and happiness, where I put this theory to the test.

I have also written several posts about happiness before – including how to be a kid again, a top ten feel good list and scratching the pills for happy thrills. So maybe I’m a little obsessed with the topic (either that or I’ll come back as a philosopher in my next life).

According to research discussed in a recent Harvard Medical School newsletter, the things that do make you happy, as opposed to money, are feeling good, doing good and engaging fully. Here’s my opinion on these hypotheses.

Feeling Good

This first hypothesis may not sound like rocket science. After all, losing a job or catching the flu has never made me particularly jubilant, and I don’t think I’m alone. But all disasters and illnesses aside, I couldn’t agree more with the connection between feeling good and being happy. After all, this is the underlying premise of my book, Finding Life’s Secret Sauce. If you take care of yourself – eat well, exercise and engage in other life adventures – you’re much more apt to be happy.

For further thoughts on this topic, there’s a great little book you might want to pick up.

Doing Good

Sometimes I feel like my gestures to do good fall short. When I make a home-made dinner for new neighbors, they end up being out of town for the weekend and get my tasty treat when it’s 3-days old. When I finally remember someone’s birthday, it’s usually three weeks after their birthday. And if I compliment someone on how nice she looks, I forget her name.

Doing good and being a more giving person is a goal of mine that has moved up the priority ladder in recent years. That’s one reason I enjoyed the book by Sean and Leigh Anne Touhy (the family in the book/movie The Blindside) called In a Heartbeat.  The couple simplifies the whole giving and doing concept by making it more tangible. Rather than stewing over what next big thing to do or give, which I personally find overwhelming, they recommend focusing on little things that make a big difference. Not only in the lives of others, but in your own life, too.

Living in the Now

The theory Eckhart Tolle extols in his book The Power of Now, living in the present moment is one way to help ensure we’re not worrying about the past or getting anxious about the future. But I think it’s easier said than done, especially for a premenopausal, almost 48-year-old lady who has trouble focusing on just about anything – from her child’s homework to the lady’s name (or face, for that matter) with whom she just played tennis. I’m also one of those persons whose meditative thoughts race so rapidly – I wonder if my 15 minutes of quiet time slowed down much of anything.

Regardless, it’s hard to argue that focusing on the joys of the present moment is more likely to make us happier, both now and possibly into the future as well.

Back to Money

Though money does not always make us happy, it does afford us happy moments, or so I proposed previously. It also paves the way to the three aforementioned conduits to joy.

For example, if we have more money, we have the ability to give more. (That doesn’t mean we will, but it certainly means we could).

If we have more money, we have access to food, places and people that can make us feel good, in theory at least. One, we can buy those healthy, whole foods at the market (assuming we then eat them) and join a gym or racquet club to stay more active (assuming we use them). Two, we might also be able to afford that therapist who helps us overcome angst and other personal issues.

And lastly, money might even help us live in the now. After all, who doesn’t lavish every moment of a massage or pedicure? (Unless we get stuck with a bad masseuse, that is).

How Much is Too Much

But how much is too much? When does wanting more money turn from a philanthropic gesture to one slithering knee-deep in greed?

Stay tuned Thursday to Part III, “Money and Happiness: How much is too much?”

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