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Who says money can’t buy happiness?

Money certainly can buy happiness – if you are willing to part with the money! In fact a recent study reported in the July 25, 2017 issue of Science & Environment revealed that using money to free up time is linked to increased happiness.

According to the news item by Helen Briggs, BBC News, psychologists in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands asked over 6000 adults, including 800 millionaires, how much money they spent on buying time. (Buying time could refer to such things as outsourcing time-consuming jobs you dislike.) Less than a third of the individuals spent money each month to buy themselves some time. Yet those who did, reported greater life satisfaction than the others.

This was followed up with a 2- week experiment among 60 working adults in Vancouver, Canada. They gave them about $40 to spend on a purchase that would save them time, such as cleaning services or paying others to run errands for them. On a different weekend, the participants were asked to spend money on material goods including wine, clothes and books. The researchers found that saving time rather than making material purchases increased happiness by reducing feelings of time stress.

Yet older research has indicated that when asked to choose between money or more free time, people chose money. It could be because those people really needed the money in order to survive. But more likely it was a knee-jerk decision based on their relationship with money since childhood. Who has not learned the value of money as a child – and yet has not been taught the importance of time?

Money has always been one of the biggest short-term motivators – one that keeps us at the slot machines or working overtime or staying late for that one last sale. We even get a shot of dopamine (the reward neurotransmitter) every time we spot a quarter on the ground or win two dollars playing bingo.

Left to itself, your brain will make decisions based on emotion. Knee-jerk reaction is a function of the primitive brain, influenced by past decisions, and taking the path of least resistance by choosing money as the priority. But your executive function, located primarily in the brain’s prefrontal cortex, has the ability to override routine and habits, and make decisions that take long-term consequences into consideration. We need to pause to allow this to happen.

And when you pause, think of ways you could buy time, whether it be farming out personal chores such as housekeeping, car washes or errands – or buying time-saving equipment, hiring taxis instead of driving or shopping online. There are many ways to trade money for time.

It’s important that you don’t let your reactive brain run your life. Run it through your brain’s “executive centre” first. You may decide to buy a little happiness.

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Positivity at work



Positively eliminate the negative

Emotional well-being is when a person consistently reports more positive than negative feelings. And according to research reported in the November/December, 2015 issue of Scientific American Mind, we become more positive and happier the older we get. In spite of hardships and failing health, something about old age keeps people in good spirits – particularly those passing the 100 mark.

It could be from failing minds, but more likely this positive attitude is from a changing outlook as we grow older and wiser and more able to control our brains. Certainly studies suggest that the positivity and happiness changes over time and is not something that we always possessed or acquired suddenly as we aged.

Also, it was found that seniors who are the most positive also have the sharpest minds – so if you’re young, keep it healthy with both physical and mental exercise. And if you’re old, do likewise. Everyone, regardless of age, should give their positivity a boost whenever possible.

A positive attitude tends to stress-proof your life. It’s important to get sufficient sleep, daily exercise and social support. And it’s equally important to be aware of the good things that happen to you – those positives amid negative events. Be more conscious of the things that go right in your life, and remember that when things look bleak, humor helps. Also, volunteer on a regular basis; by helping others you are also helping yourself.

Use the “stop” method whenever you find yourself having negative thoughts about a future event that may or may not happen. Negativity thinking is more common than you may think. Robert Leahy in his book, The Worry Cure, (Harmony, 2005) claims that 38% of people say they worry every day, and more than 19 million Americans are chronic worriers. Instead of dwelling on negative thoughts, immediately say “Stop that!” either aloud or silently to yourself. And then get on with the next item on your “To Do” list.

Action will dissipate worry every time.

You will become more positive and happier the older you get. But why wait when you can enjoy life more right now by accentuating the positive and doing everything you can to eliminate the negative.

If that last line is familiar to you, and the research showing that positivity increases with age is accurate, you are already more positive than most people because it’s based on a song written over 70 years ago.