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Money and happiness - research and personal experiences

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021), Jun 15, 2014.

  1. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    Recently, I've been watching a series of videos about mind-body medicine. They are by Dr. Jason M. Satterfield, professor of behavioral medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. One of the topics in the most recent lecture, about income and happiness, was especially interesting to me. Satterfield stated that income and happiness are not related. Rather, he says happiness seems to be influenced mostly by relationships and meaning. But he also says that if a person has more financial security, he or she will be a lot happier. That sounds to me like the two are definitely related… money and happiness. I know from my own experience and that of family and friends and also many who post about their pains on TMSWiki.org that financial stress can and does cause TMS symptoms, everything from back and leg pain to fibromyalgia and migraine headaches. I’ll elaborate more on this in a little while.

    Meanwhile, studies show that happiness is correlated with extraversion, spirituality, and religious communities. Quakers who have little in the way of money or possessions, and Mormons, many of whom are wealthy, reportedly are happier than most others in more traditional religious communities. Their happiness has been attributed to the social supports and relationships Quakers and Mormon communities provide.

    Satterfield cites a study by Columbia University that the happiest place in the world are neither the richest nor the safest. Qatar, the richest country in the world, ranks as the 11th happiest, while the United States, which is the 6th wealthiest country, also ranks 11th. Japan, which has the longest life expectancy, ranks 44th, and Hong Kong, the city with the lowest murder rates, ranks 67th in happiness. The three happiest countries in the world are Denmark, Finland, and Norway. This may have something to do with Nordic culture, says Satterfield.

    While income may not generally predict happiness, Satterfield admits that we need food, shelter, and clothing to feel secure, all basic necessities for happiness. But once people earn from $50,000 to $75,000 a year, income really does not matter in predicting happiness. Satterfield talks about the concept of hedonic adaptation, where making more money means buying items that cost more money such as bigger homes, new cars with more whistles and bells, and more expensive designer clothes, eating out in better restaurants, etc. Having more money and better possessions may not affect our happiness because we may always compare ourselves to those who have even more.

    I grew up in Chicago during the worldwide 1930s Great Depression, the youngest of three children, my parents struggling to pay rent for apartments we lived in, and put food on the table and pay the utilities. Even our living room couch and dining room table and chairs were paid for by-the-month. When the electric bill wasn’t paid, the lights went out and we kids did our homework by candlelight. But I felt happy and never felt poor, because we lived in neighborhoods where everyone was in the same boat.

    I grew up to have a best friend, Tom, who was from a wealthy Chicago family and could and did buy anything he wanted. He bought a Nikon camera one day for about $500 and when he looked at it outside the store, he accidentally dropped it and saw it break into a pie of pieces. It hardly phased him and he went back in the store and bought another.

    He bought an expensive sports car, but by the time he got back home he decided he really liked another one in the show room better. He drove the new car back to the car dealer and traded it in to buy the other car. He had to take a loss because even in just the few minutes he drove the first car, it had lost value and was considered to be a used car. It didn’t matter to him. He was rich and could afford the loss.

    But Tom, who later married his sweetheart who also was from a wealthy family, was the most unhappy person I ever knew. Something was wrong, and over the years of our friendship as we were like brothers, I came to learn why he was not happy. He had chronic back pain and blamed it on prep school football injuries. He was short and not built for the game, but wanted to prove he was macho. It began a lifelong battle with back pain in which he later had to crawl to the bathroom because it was too painful for him to stand up.

    I now believe Tom’s back pain and constant depression was from TMS because of stressful family relationships. Satterfield supports this by pointing out that happiness is not determined by material things like money but by immeasurable things like our relationships with family and others. TMS pain can be caused by or fueled by financial stress, and low income does affect happiness, but what about the rich like Tom?

    I learned over time that Tom’s father was so henpecked that to escape his wife he joined American Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers in the late 1930s before the United States entered World War II. He decided he’d rather fight the Japanese in Burma than stand up to his nagging wife. This left Tom without a father during his early formative years, and with a mother who smothered and dominated him. To prove to himself he was masculine, he played football and injured his back. So all the money that came to Tom could not bring him happiness. He spent his life repressing anger against his father for abandoning him, and his mother for dominating him in lieu of dominating his absent father. He needed to know that TMS repressed emotions could cure his aching back. But he didn’t know about TMS and back then, neither did I.

    We don’t all have to be like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, living in poverty and caring for the poor in India, but in contrast to my friend Tom, she was a much, much happier person.

    How much money is enough? Millionaires aspire to become billionaires, and they compare themselves with those as rich as they are. I recall a 1950s movie, “Key Largo,” in which a poor ex-GI Humphrey Bogart asks rich gangster Edward G. Robinson, “What do you want?” And Robinson replied, “More.” More seems to be what some people think will make them happy, but it often does not.

    I read an interesting article about happiness and those who win millions of dollars in the lottery. The U.S. News and World Report article of December 19, 2013, by Rachel Pomerance Berl, says that big money has not brought happiness for many lottery winners because it changes relationships. That’s one of the main reasons I don’t play the lottery.

    “Winning the lottery is often highly overrated and fraught with turmoil,” says Berl.

    Michael Norton, associate professor business administration at Harvard Business School, agrees, saying “Among the troubles that come with lottery winnings is social estrangement. Newfound riches typically set the winner substantially apart from the demographics of his or her friends and family members. They, in turn, come calling for money.”

    Friends and relatives see the lottery winner as someone to “put the touch on” for some cash because they have the idea the new money should be shared. But, as Norton says, “as a result, lottery winners may find themselves in the unhappy position of being ‘very, very rich, and much more alone.’”

    You don’t even have to be a mega million-dollar lottery winner to find that you can lose family and friends. I read of a woman who “only” won one million dollars in a lottery and said she was sorry she ever won. It did not bring her happiness. What it brought were relatives and friends, even people she didn’t know, who “came out of the woodwork” with their hands out for some of her winnings.

    Here is a link to that article:


    I recently read a quote by the late Princess Diana, who knew all about having money but not happiness: “They say it is better to be poor and happy than rich and miserable, but how about a compromise like moderately rich and just moody?”

    I don’t personally have a problem, or conflict, with money and happiness. I tell my darling dog Annie, a big black Lab mix, when I drive with her along Sheridan Road to the wealthy suburbs north of Chicago and we pass the millionaires’ mansions: “We are rich, Annie. We just don’t have any money.” Money cannot buy the love and happiness we have for each other.

    A radio commentator, Wes Moss, recently discussed the traits and habits of people regarding money and happiness. “Can money buy happiness?” he asked. He said that though people will always argue one way or another on the subject, he collected research that has been backed by Georgia Tech’s Mathematics department that “actually answers” the question. He also reports on a quiz we can take on money and happiness. It’s at:


    It would be great if those reading about this topic of money and happiness would share their thoughts in the forum and give examples of their experiences on the subject.

    Here are some links about happiness and income that I found interesting:
  2. njoy

    njoy aka Bugsy

    Thanks for this very interesting post, Walt. I used to have very little money which I found frustrating because I sometimes couldn't do things I really wanted to do, like travel. I was very rarely frustrated by being unable to buy "stuff" because I found (in this materialistic society of ours) people constantly threw away just what I thought I needed (and usually found out I didn't need at all). Most of the time, I really enjoyed the challenge of being poor and surviving day to day by my wits.

    Then I unexpectedly inherited some money which gave me a financial cushion and allowed me to do many things I hadn't been able to do, previously, like travel. This was good, in itself, but I think it did not substantially increase my happiness. Why? After a few years, travel became repetitive and I found myself getting bored by big cities that are essentially the same. Societies and cultures were more interesting but it was a shock the day I thought, "Oh dear, China again!". I've come to feel that ideas and individuals are the most interesting of all. I don't have to travel to find them. So far, they are everywhere. Also, I feel less secure because I worry more about losing my financial security. The challenge is less and life is a bit less interesting, all things considered.

    Neither Mother Theresa nor Princess Di had food insecurity or were in danger of homelessness. They both found ways to feel useful. They both had interesting experiences in life. They also both had frustrations and insecurities. They could not attain what was most important to them, at times . I think this happens to all of us. I think happiness is far more a matter of temperament, and acquiring some wisdom, than it is of money. Even at the very extremes of poverty and wealth there are a few people who feel secure and enjoy life. For most of us, our circumstances are not so extreme and are not the problem. Learning to let go of fear is probably the only security there can ever be.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2014
  3. Forest

    Forest Beloved Grand Eagle

    Great posts, Walt and njoy. I completely agree. From the perspective of evolution, I think our brains are designed to always want "more, more more," but we also need to be able to function when we don't have everything we want. After all, by definition, we will always want more! So I think that our brains are designed to always want more, but still be happy with what we've got.

    The key, I think, is to keep the wanting for "more more more" at bay. It's one of the core values by which I try to live my life.

    I've also had the experience, like njoy, of having my life circumstances change in a way that didn't affect my life circumstances at all. For 18 years, when my TMS was bad, I was extremely limited in what activities I could perform, careerwise (I couldn't use a computer, for example). Now that I have my life back, I can do pretty much whatever I like, but my happiness is pretty much the same as it was before. It really makes you think, doesn't it? Maybe there is something to this idea of "hedonic adaptation" or a "happiness set point."

    I think it's also interesting how the idea of achieving happiness by keeping our "wants" in line relates to Buddhism, which has "the Four Noble Truths" as one of its core teachings. Here they are:
    1. Noble Truth of Suffering: Chasing after the delights of the world, expecting them to bring lasting pleasure, always leads to disappointment. These things are all subject to the miseries of birth, old age, sickness and death. Even when you do find something pleasant how soon do you grow tired of it? None of these 'things' offer any real satisfaction or peace.
    2 Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering: Not being able to be content with what we have or who we are, our mind is filled with a greed or desire and suffering of all types automatically follows. This attitude of selfishness and greediness is the cause of our dissatisfaction, robbing us of our peace of mind.
    3. Noble Truth of the End of Suffering: Seeing the suffering that comes from these attitudes we are liberated from our heart and all our suffering and dissatisfaction will come to an end. We shall experience a happiness that is far greater then our ordinary pleasures and a peace that is beyond words.
    4. Noble Truth of the Middle Path or the Nobel Eightfold Path: This path leads to the end of all suffering, If we avoid harming all other living beings, if we sharpen and focus our mind, and if we gain wisdom, each of us can reach perfect happiness, the end of all misery. The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path namely:
    Right Understanding
    Right Thought
    Right Speech
    Right Action
    Right Livelihood
    Right Effort
    Right Mindfulness
    Right Concentration​
    Eric "Herbie" Watson and Ellen like this.
  4. Ellen

    Ellen Beloved Grand Eagle

    Interesting posts. Thanks Walt, Njoy, and Forest. All of which supports the famous quote by William Arthur Ward, "Happiness is an inside job."
  5. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    It's good to see how this subject is generating interest with replies.
    Great stuff, njoy, Forest, and Ellen.
  6. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Very interesting thread! As a parent, financial stress has probably been one of the main fuels feeding my TMS. When we were in college, I learned to budget and cook on a shoestring. It was fun and I made a game out of it. By the time 3 littles came along, that game got old after awhile. Especially since we were committed to keeping me at home. When they got older, I homeschooled the kids too.

    So yeah…living on one income in a two income culture ain't a cakewalk. And that's to say nothing for the lay-offs we've endured. We've been self-employed for nearly a year now and somehow the lights are still lit. It helps that we've avoided debt. We worked our butts off to get student loans paid off and a business debt. We drive old cars until the wheels fall off and only pay cash for things. (We do have a mortgage, part of why we're eager to sell our house. We're tired of servicing the debt and will downsize significantly.)

    One thing that I AM grateful for is I am very thrifty and resourceful. I don't think I would have learned these skills if I was a kept woman. haha

    I also marvel at the younger generation and what they define as a"need" like weekly manicure appointments. I admit, I'm a bit of a granola but I still can't figure out how $45 nail appointments are a necessity. But I digress.

    My mantra lately is, "I have enough for today." I can be as anxiety prone as I am thrifty. Worry about bills, will there be enough, blah, blah, blah. It's a scarcity mindset with its basis in fear. So I have to be very intentional in speaking to myself that nature teaches we live in a universe of abundance. Trees produce seeds that produce more trees that produce…and so on.

    If I have a rich and generous uncle out there somewhere, I would welcome inclusion in his will. haha
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  7. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    This is a great post Walt. I believe money has a lot to do with our tms and emotions. If I'm correct Dr. Satterfield stated that after 75.000 a year then income and happiness are not related anymore.
    See I have had a very successful business in the past and I was not happy at all with lots and lots of money. I studied every day in books on happiness and joy, spent many many hours teaching our workers how to keep an upbeat attitude and how they too could be as successful in life as they wished to be. I never remember any of them coming back full of joy and happiness even after most of them were making at least 1500 dollars a week and being paid to learn happiness. I also was distraught at the way they felt and it made me feel terrible knowing that they were getting nothing out of all we were doing for our betterment.
    Keep in mind that I haven't learnt any tms knowledge at this time and I was trying to be happy knowing that all my bills were paid and that I owned my own business.
    Reading every book I could on joy and happiness, optimism and peace wasn't the way for me to enjoy life. I was holding onto too much baggage you see, even if all my workers would have turned out extraordinary and came in positive everyday I would have thought of some other depressing thing to focus on cause in my body I just felt depressed.
    The key always has and always will be to stop looking for something to be upset about or something to worry about or something to gripe about or a political problem that you can attach too, and the list is endless.
    We go from one worry to the next like its clock work, it takes no effort to worry, you just have it built in like a part of you and it is whether we inherited it through our ancestors genes or whether we decided we just have this knack to worry and stress and be tensed over every single thing that pops up.
    Most of my family are just dead set that they are all bi-polar and life has handed them this depression and anxiety gene. Maybe so but they can still be fixed by generating new neural pathways but they would never do that, it's in their blood a part of them and that can never be took away by knowledge and mindpower besides laziness is part of their disease too as it was part of my disease. I say that to say this, I have seen them all with plenty of money and still they all worried and stayed tensed and stressed. The happiness might have been a fake smile and a vacation 3 times a month but they were never really happy, I know.
    I believe no matter how rich you are -- if you have been told that you have bad nerves and depression or if you just think that way and you never learn the knowledge to correct that then you will never get better from
    the depression or pain period. Lots of money or no money.
    I grew up very poor and I remember as a child learning how to be a great worrier, before that time " Learning to be a great worrier time " I was a very very happy child until the age of about 14. I remember nothing could get me down, yes I already had worry traits from my family but I never bought into all of that. I thought they all needed help so I would read and search and study to get the answers that were going to help them but even then they never wanted to learn anything new. If it wasn't something the Dr. Said then it must not be true and I'm talking about the Dr. that you see in the E.R.
    In my conclusion learning to know my unconscious thoughts and controlling them and then learning my traits and changing them were like great tools for me to understand how to escape the worry, depression and stress trap.
    Learning to be at peace with little like the kiss of a child and the hug of a brother and the hope in a friendly game of scrabble was astonishing for in the past nothing could make me happy, it was all just run of the mill things to do. I had to learn that unknowingly I was sabotaging myself and I didn't even know it. Each time I dreaded a walk in the park or a phone ring or going to a loved ones home I was just setting myself up for more pain. I had to learn to see the beauty in life again by making a conscious effort to reframe all my illusions.

    Having no money and being unhappy is the other end of the spectrum I know and like I said above we were a poor family and I remember my mom worrying about money all the time but as a kid I never felt the pain of poverty, sure I wanted toys and bikes and motorcycles like everyone else had but I was content with a good book and going down to the swimming hole daily. Being poor is a mindset just as being rich is. Although I do remember as I got older and moved out on my own and the bills became my bills, that is very stressful when you don't have the last 75.00 to pay your rent. At this time is when you start to think that money will solve your problems and it might when you get the rent paid but after that all the unconscious traits and worry and stress will come pouring back on you from some other outlet. The bottom line is all of that worry and stress from being poor is illusions too.

    We have to begin to see that our unconscious fears and angers are causing us pain. And our traits that we got from our family and friends like worry and judgement and criticism are causing us pain too. We are just agreeing with them daily and giving them power over our mindbody.

    We can learn that meditation is a good thing and not just for spiritual folks. We can learn that happiness and laughing and having a good time isn't a sin.
    We can learn that getting out and connecting back to life is a good thing and not something only happy people have if we try to be at peace in these situations and learn to let our worries go by reframing them. Face them for what they are, feel them and release them.

    We can learn that the sun is for more than just our warmth and the wind is for more than just sailing.
    We learn the beauty in a garden and the hope in a warm friendly hug...

    Also, you can be memed as in commercials that tell you you might have a disease and then you automatically believe it. Just like you have a mindset of how bad all your troubles are, this has to stop too if you wish to ever get better. That is called being framed, we all are guilty of that and that is not the truth.

    We also need to to feel our feelings or emotions, so many of us never even ponder that, the unspoken words of the soul have to be felt to be understood and expressed and thus released. Yet we run from them with a bottle of wine and vicodin. We have to treat this pain and anxiety in the home front by facing it for what it really is " our body's unspoken words of wisdom waiting to be heard"

    In the end I'd like to say that I have had plenty of money and I have been very poor and I worried and had pain and tension in both of them. Only till I learned to do the things I mentioned above did I begin to see a change and eventually heal from this emotional roller coaster thats is lifes biggest illusion.

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