Happiness Comes from Giving and Helping, Not Buying and Having By Steve Taylor Ph.D

Materialism doesn’t lead to well-being, but altruism does.

So many of us strive so hard for material success that you might think there was a clear relationship between wealth and happiness. The media and our governments encourage us to believe this, since they need us to keep earning and spending to boost economic growth. From school onwards, we’re taught that long term well-being stems from achievement and economic prosperity – from ‘getting on’ or ‘making it’, accumulating more and more wealth, achievement and success.

Consequently, it comes as a shock for many people to learn that there is no straightforward relationship between wealth and well-being. Once our basic material needs are satisfied (i.e. once we’re assured of regular food and adequate shelter and a basic degree of financial security), wealth only has a negligible effect on well-being.

For example, studies have shown that, in general, lottery winners do not become significantly happier than they were before, and that even extremely rich people – such as billionaires – are not significantly happier than others.

Studies have shown that American and British people are less contented now than they were 50 years ago, although their material wealth is much higher. On an international level, there does appear to some correlation between wealth and well-being, partly because there are many countries in the world where people’s basic material needs are not satisfied. But this correlation is not a straightforward one, since wealthier countries tend to be more politically stable, more peaceful and democratic, with less oppression and more freedom – all of which are themselves important factors in well-being.

So why do we put so much effort into acquiring wealth and material goods? You could compare it to a man who keeps knocking at a door, even though he’s been told that the person he’s looking for isn’t at home. ‘But he must be in there!” he shouts, and barges in to explore the house. He storms out again, but returns to the house a couple of minutes later, to knock again. Seeking well-being through material success is just as irrational as this.

Well-Being Through Giving

If anything, it appears that there is a relationship between non-materialism and well-being. While possessing wealth and material goods doesn’t lead to happiness, giving them away actually does. Generosity is strongly associated with well-being. For example, studies of people who practise volunteering have shown that they have better psychological and mental health and increased longevity. The benefits of volunteering have been found to be greater than taking up exercise, or attending religious services – in fact, even greater than giving up smoking.

Another study found that, when people were given a sum of money, they gained more well-being if they spent it on other people, or gave it away, rather than spending it on themselves. This sense of well-being is more than just feeling good about ourselves – it comes from a powerful sense of connection to others, an empathic and compassionate transcendence of separateness, and of our own self-centredness.

In fact, paradoxically, another study has shown that this is one way in which money actually can bring happiness: if you give away the money you earn. This research – by Dunn, Gilbert and Wilson – also showed that money is more likely to bring happiness is you spend it on experiences, rather than material goods. (1) Another study (by Joseph Chancellor and Sonja Lyubomirsky) has suggested that consciously living a lifestyle of ‘strategic under-consumption’ (or thrift) can also lead to well-being. (2)

So if you really want enhance your well-being – and as long as your basic material needs are satisfied – don’t try to accumulate money in your bank account, and don’t treat yourself to material goods you don’t really need. Be more generous and altruistic – increase the amount of money you give to people in need, give more of your time to volunteering, or spend more time helping other people, or behaving more kindly to everyone around you. Ignore the ‘happiness means consumption’ messages we’re bombarded with by the media.

A lifestyle of generosity and under-consumption may not suit the needs of economists and politicians — but it will certainly make us happier.

We would do well to heed the words of the American Indian, Ohiyesa, speaking of his Sioux people:

‘It was our belief that the love of possessions is a weakness to be overcome. Its appeal is to the material part, and if allowed its way, it will in time disturb one’s spiritual balance. Therefore, children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving.’

References:

(1) http://www.wjh.harvard.edu/~dtg/DUNN%20GILBERT%20&%20WILSON%20(2011).pdf
(2) http://sonjalyubomirsky.com/files/2012/09/CLinpress.pdf

Steve Taylor holds a Ph.D in Transpersonal Psychology and is a senior lecturer in Psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK. For the last three years Steve has been included in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people’ (coming in at #31 in 2014).

Steve is also the author of Back to Sanity: Healing the Madness of Our Minds and The Fall: The Insanity of the Ego in Human History and the Dawning of A New Era. His books have been published in 16 languages and his research has appeared in The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, The Journal of Consciousness Studies, The Transpersonal Psychology Review, The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, as well as the popular media in the UK, including on BBC World TV, The Guardian, and The Independent.

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Shiva Rudra Balayogi – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview


Published on May 7, 2017

His teachings are simple, but profound: You have forgotten your Real Self. You are that abode of Supreme Peace. Through meditation, devotion and selfless service this illusory ego can be removed, and your true immortal nature of Supreme Peace and Permanent Happiness realized.

His Holiness Shri Shivarudra Balayogi (affectionately known as Baba Maharaj) is a Self Realized Yogi – one who has completed the path of Yoga and attained union with the Supreme Consciousness. A direct disciple of Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj, He entered His Guru’s service at the age of 19 and was later initiated into Sanyas, a monastic life of pure devotion and service. He was placed in charge of the Dehra Dun Ashram where He spent 20 years absorbed in intense spiritual practice, combining selfless service, devotion to His Guru and deep meditation.

Following the Mahasamadhi (the passing from this world’s physical form) of His Guru in 1994, Shri Shivarudra Balayogi was initiated into the spiritual practice of Tapas, in which He meditated for an average of 20 hours a day continually for the next 5 years. The culmination of this was the attainment of the goal of all spirituality – Self Realization, the permanent union of the mind with the Supreme Peace of Infinite Pure Consciousness.
He now travels the world carrying on His Guru’s mission of teaching dhyana meditation, true devotion and selfless service. Baba Maharaj is the embodiment of gentleness and compassion. His life itself is His teaching: devotion, selfless service to humanity and unrelenting effort in striving for spiritual perfection.

Shri Babaji offers initiation, freely and without obligation, into the technique of dhyana meditation which He used to achieve Self Realization. He engages audiences worldwide with His profound spiritual insight, drawn from deep personal experience rather than scriptural study. His teachings are the purest form of the sublime philosophy of Self Realization taught by the ancient Sages of India.

Website: http://shivarudrabalayogi.org

Books: His Master’s Grace: The Tapas Experiences of Shri Shiva Rudra Balayogi Maharaj The Peace Within Viveka Choodamani: The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination Shiva Hara Gurudeva The Path Supreme

Relaxing the Over-Controller – Part I with Tara Brach


Published on May 4, 2017

Relaxing the Over-Controller – Part I (4/26/2017)
We all have conditioning to do what we can to protect and promote our wellbeing. Our suffering arises to the degree that our life and identity become organized around controlling our experience. These two talks look at the emergence of the fear based “over-controller,” and explore a wise way of witnessing the suffering that comes with over-controlling, and awareness practices that naturally relax and awaken us to our whole and natural Being.

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