Spending on Others

If you want to be happy spend money on others. Psychology professor Elizabeth Dunn and marketing professor Michael Norton document all this in their book Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending. They’ve of course conducted research and experiments and on a recent PBS program Elizabeth Dunn even spoke of living what she has come to believe. She and a group of friends are engaged in a project pooling resources to sponsor a refugee family. To these authors happiness is not spending on oneself, but on others. One may like spending money on oneself, it may make one happy, but the gratification of spending money on others is greater, which means that maximizing self-interest is not always an answer and altruism may not be as devoid of gratification as we might have thought. To someone like me who has been practicing meditation and the values it represents for years or to someone who agrees with the idea of Abraham Maslow’s positive instinctive core the notion that doing for others gives more pleasure than doing for oneself is not new. And in a culture that is increasingly focusing on materialistic values, it is refreshing and heartening to have research validate the notion. A reader ought not, however, take my word, nor that of Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton, a reader, I hope will try this for him or herself.