Creating a more meaningful life

Does money make us happy?   We all know of people who are rich and depressed, and people who are relatively poor but happy – but are they the exceptions?   Research suggests that they are not, finding that increases in wealth have minimal effect on happiness once a person’s basic needs are taken care of.   So if money doesn’t make us happy, what does?

Studies examining thousands of people have found that marriage, close relationships with family, friends and others, optimism, and the holding and making use of particular strengths are associated with higher levels of happiness.

So how can we improve our relationships with others?   Spending time with them and developing common interests or hobbies is important, as is how you think about and respond to them.   It is easy to get into the habit of noticing the weaknesses of those close to us, but how often do you focus on their strengths?   In the next week spend some time thinking about those closest to you.   What do you appreciate or like about them?   What qualities do they hold that you admire or enjoy?   Do you ever tell them these things?   Try to give positive feedback to those you care about, praising their strengths and respecting any differences that may exist.  

So what about optimism.   Would you like to be more optimistic? Research suggests that overall, optimistic people perform better, although there may be some exceptions to this (for example, if you work in risk management it may be helpful to think pessimistically – whilst at work).   Would being more optimistic help you be happier and more productive?   If so, how can you develop this?   First of all, you need to become aware of and identify any pessimistic thoughts that you may be having.   Next, rather than always asking yourself what the worst thing is that could happen in a given situation, try asking yourself what the best thing could be.   Try to generate more optimistic alternatives.     When a negative event does occur, rather than solely focusing on all the awful things about the situation and what you have lost, try to identify any positives in the situation and think about what you may have gained.   Remember, changing your thinking is a skill.   It takes practise and may not come easily at first.   Try to be patient and give it a go.  

For hints on developing and making use of strengths, please see the article above titled So what is happines?   The specific strengths that have been found to be most strongly related to happiness are gratitude, optimism, energy, curiosity, and loving (from those assessed by the VIA Signature Strengths Questionnaire at ).   It may be worthwhile focusing on developing these strengths in particular.   For example, you can better develop gratitude by focusing on identifying at least three things for which you are grateful each day.   You may identify things that people typically notice, such as getting a pay rise,   or seemingly minor things, such as the apple that you ate for breakfast being ripe.   Being grateful for all each of these types of things can contribute to your overall level of happiness.

Making money may be something that we believe we can exert some control over, but it doesn’t lead to long-lasting happiness. There are other things that , if we put the effort into them, can lead to higher levels, and longer lasting, happiness.

Improve your mental health & well-being by making an appointment with our experienced clinical psychologists.


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North Sydney NSW 

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Please note:

This website and the services that we provide are not a crisis service.   Although we aim to see people within a week of their first contact, if you need immediate urgent assistance please call Lifeline (ph. 131 114) or contact your local hospital or community mental health centre