Money can buy a lot of things, but after your basic needs are taken care of, the upgrades that come with an increase in income really don’t make that much of a difference. A famous Princeton study in 2010 found that emotional well-being did not increase for people making more than $75K. Earlier this year a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that this number had ticked upward to $85K.
But the point is the same: Earning anything over that amount apparently has very little effect on your happiness quotient.
3. “I have to be better than just OK to be happy.”
When you start making demands and deals with yourself to allow happiness into your life, you are signing your life away. These are “when” contracts: “When I get what I want, then I can be happy.” The problem is that the finish line is a moving target, as life is ever-changing and so are your desires.
4. “When I find true love, then I will be happy.”
This is perhaps the most common myth we tell ourselves about happiness. Please trust that nothing could be further from the truth. Love is the best thing on the planet, and it is also the most painful, so brace yourself. Remember to be careful about what you ask for.
5. “If I have a fulfilled life, then I will never be unhappy.”
Everything has a life cycle, and feelings of fulfillment are no different. You will need to seek different kinds of fulfillment as your life changes and your body ages. And unhappiness, like happiness, is only temporary.
6. “If I don’t constantly seek happiness, I will be sad.”
No, but perhaps you will be content. When our lives are actually out of control, we feel stress. When they are not out of control, we may create our own stress by pushing ourselves to be happy, and it is quite taxing on the soul. Instead of seeking happiness, feel the contentment in your life. It’s easier to find, and it lasts much longer.
7. “When life is normal again, then I can be happy again.”
I thought I should address this particular “when” contract directly, because it seems to be a driving force in our lives these days. Things can never be like they were. We have been through too much, the entire world is traumatized, and we don’t yet know what normal is going to look like. This time is not about trying to be happy. It’s about learning to love and enjoy what we have.
True happiness in never a constant in anyone’s universe. If we get to touch it for a little while, we are fortunate. Being sad because you are not happy is not going to make you feel any better, but being kind and making the lives of others better will. Happiness isn’t always available, but goodness is always right where you put it.
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Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author of “The Happy Couple: How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Email him at Barton@bartongoldsmith.com.