The relationship between happiness and wealth

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I think it is safe to say that most of us want to be happy compared to not happy, and most of us want to be wealthy rather than not wealthy. But, what is the relationship between these two? In order to understand this relationship, we have to look at each of these in more detail.

Although thought of as an emotion, happiness is not a single emotion but rather a broad category under which come a number of different emotions such as joy, pleasure, love, contentment, calm, peace, excitement, etc. These individual emotional states are achieved by short-term and long-term life conditions. Getting food when you are hungry, seeing someone you like, playing a game of a sport you like are examples of short-term life conditions to achieve these emotional states. On the other hand, having a home to live in, knowing many people you like, having many games that you enjoy playing are examples of long-term life conditions that are related to these emotional states. The more of these life conditions that you have over the short-term, the more “happy” you will be in the short-term. In the same way, the more of these you have over the long-term, the more “happy” you will be in the long-term. So, how does wealth relate to achieving these states?

Wealth is accumulated resources that are used to achieve life conditions which allow one to have a number of emotional states that come under the broad category of happiness. As detailed in the post “Guide to total wealth”, wealth is a combination of three main independent parts: economic wealthsocial wealth, and intellectual wealth. These parts of wealth are accumulated through inheritance and/or earning, and then are spent to create situations that increase the various emotions categorized as happiness. For example, if you are hungry, you spend economic wealth to buy food and feel pleasure, contentment etc.; if you have accumulated social wealth(a lot of good connections with family/friends), you spend that wealth by visiting them or calling them so you can be around someone you like and feel joy, love, etc.; and if you have accumulated intellectual wealth (have many hobbies, passion and dreams), you spend that wealth by doing those things so that you can feel excitement, pleasure, etc. The more wealth you have, the more resources you have that you can spend to create more of these life situations.

So to summarize the relationship of happiness to wealth, wealth is resources you accumulate so that you can spend it to create life situations that will put you into emotionally positive states that fit under the category of happiness. So, how much wealth you accumulate and how efficiently you spend it is highly related to how happy you will be in the short and long term. It is good for us to understand the details of this relationship, as most of us want to be “happy” rather than “unhappy”.

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