Research has revealed again and again that buying things does not make us happy. On the other hand, buying ‘experiences’ can make us really happy. So for example, buying a piano might give you a great buzz and bring you attention from friends but playing that piano will give a greater and more lasting happiness. But the key is that you need love playing on a piano, otherwise nothing about the piano will give you happiness. It will simply fill you with sadness each time you look at it, and it may even become something you can’t wait to get rid of.
According to an article in the Psychologist, ‘[the]… key to happiness is ‘identity expression’… i.e. Does a particular purchase express your personality and values? If it does, you are likely to feel happier.’ The author of the article says that a friend once said, “Happiness is being able to express who I am.” So in other words, learn to know yourself thoroughly and then only give time and money to those things that enhance yourself.
Arian Huffington, the founder of Huffington Post, says that the key to happiness is knowing your limits. This is another way of saying that the key to happiness is knowing ourselves fully (including our limits). I used to think that running myself ragged, helping others would bring me happiness. Fortunately I came across a Buddhist principle called Jigyo Keta which means happiness for ourselves and others, i.e. not one or the other other but both. When we can respect ourselves truly, we can respect others truly. Happiness just for ourselves is selfish and a ‘small goal’ while happiness that is just for other is martyrdom and sometimes not even wanted by the receiver. Would you like to receive money from a street beggar? I bet not. But if you had some spare change, you could give that to the beggar. So the key to happiness is knowing ourselves and then giving to others what we can give best. A rich man can give away money, a musician can play for others and so on. This is the contributive and balanced life.
Don’t run yourself ragged- always keep some spare change for your soul!