Mike Dariano

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Happiness Through Charity

Happiness can’t really be bought, at least not through goods. People who buy things for themselves quickly get used to those things and need more things which they quickly get used to. Their cycle never ends. The best way for money to leave your wallet in exchange for happiness, is to give it away. People who gave money as gifts or to charity are happier than those who don’t, and it doesn’t matter how much money you have right now or how much you give.

Lots of us think - and I used to too - that if we only won the lottery our lives would be different. We could pay our bills, take a nice vacation, and be set a life with more mai tais and fewer neckties. It turns out though that lottery winners have a much bumpier life that us non-winners imagine.

I live on a wooded lot in the country and we have dozens of trees - oak, maple, hickory - which periodically fall down. These trees make great firewood and whenever we find someone who needs wood, we offer some of ours. We can do this because we don’t burn wood. Imagine though that we did burn it, and people knew we had all this easy-pickin wood. They might beg us to share because we have plenty. It turns out that this imagined scenario is exactly what happens to lottery winner. Generally, they either spend all their money and go into debt, or they get annoyed with badgering friends and lose those friendships. Even non-winners who imagine winning, pre-isolate themselves. One guy who commented on an article about lottery winners declared that he would print a picture of himself sitting in a tub full of dollar bills and from behind his locked doors, send that picture to any solicitors. What a guy.

The lottery as a yellow bricked road to easy street is a fallacy. There may be a wizard at the end, but he won't have happiness. Instead, our path to happiness on the wheels of money is through charity. Research has found that people who spend any amount of money on anyone else report being happier than those who get to keep the entire sum of the money.

In a study of two groups of college students, one group was given $20 to spend on someone else, another group $5 to spend on themselves. The group that spent the $20 on others was happier than the other group and it didn’t even matter how the money was spent. Some students donated the money to an organization that helped people with malaria, others bought coffee for a friend - all giving students were happier.

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