People with a comfortable standard of living are obviously happier than people living in poverty. But research shows that once that level of comfort is reached, additional income does not buy additional happiness. Writing in the New York Times, psychology professor, Elizabeth Dunn, and Michael Norton, a business professor, claim that magic income number is approximately $75,000. So after that $75,000 is reached, neither $150,000 nor $300,00 will bring us a buck more of satisfaction or well being.

A national sample of Americans nevertheless indicates they still harbor the idea that their satisfaction would double if they earned $55,000 instead of $25,000. Data shows, however, that those earning that $55,000 are just 9% more satisfied than those making $25,000.

It turns out that the amount of money we make is secondary to how we spend it. By now many of us have read that spending our money on experiences — trips, cultural events and special nights out — brings us richer, longer lasting satisfaction than spending it on more THINGS  — bigger houses, flashier cars or showy TVs. More recent research shows that in addition to accumulating these enriching experiences, we can increase our satisfaction by spending less money than we have at our disposal and by spending it on others.

This spending less helps curtail over-indulgences which often lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction.  This applies to food consumption too. I myself experience this overindulgence phenomenon on the subject of brownies. If I restrict myself to one brownie a week, that first bite is always a luscious treat. If however I pig out when visiting a brownie baking buddy, my satiated taste buds just say ho hum, “Good” instead of jumping up and down with my one brownie a week and exclaiming, “Scrumptious!” As Food writer Michael Pollen eloquently put it, “The banquet is in the first bite.”

When the authors handed out $20 to people on the street and asked some individuals to spend it on themselves and others to spend it on someone else, people whose generosity benefited others reported feeling significantly happier than those who didn’t share their windfall. This held true in countries all the way from Canada to South Africa.

It even held true for toddlers who are not celebrated for their delight in sharing. Gifted with a pile of yummy goldfish crackers, the children happily beamed, but they beamed even brighter when they shared some of their treats with a friendly monkey puppet.

So don’t hog your goldfish. Spread your goodies around and share the smiles.

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