If celebrity culture is teaching us anything, it is that yes, you can have lots of money and still be miserable, so miserable in fact that you ruin your life with addictions, even lose your life to them.
I recently watched an interesting movie on DVD, Meet Bill. Not a masterpiece but certainly entertaining and also thought-provoking. The guy, Bill, married into a rich family. He works in the family business, lives a life of luxury, and you would think he has a great life – except that his father in law, his brother in law and his wife all disrespect him. He’s bored, unfulfilled, miserable, and desperately wants to make it on his own.
Money IS Important
Money may not guarantee happiness, but I’ll never tell you that money is not important, because I know it is. Money helps us ensure that our basic human needs such as food, shelter, and clothing are always met, whether we’re employed or not. When you have money, you don’t need to worry about whether you would be able to provide for your family and you are free to pursue what interests you in terms of occupation and hobbies.
Money buys you peace of mind, and this is priceless. The problem begins when we expect money to buy us happiness. This is a problem, because money doesn’t always guarantee happiness, and in fact, there are lots of cases where getting a large amount of money has ruined people’s lives.
What Are Your Expectations?
It’s all about expectations. We all strive to have more money – but what do we expect to achieve through that? If you have a very narrow focus on money as something that frees you from daily worries and enables you to do more with your life, that’s great. But if you view money as the ticket to living “the good life” and being happy, you might find yourself bitterly disappointed.
Rich and Unhappy = Ungrateful?
People who have money but are unhappy sometimes seem ungrateful. When I watched that movie, my first reaction was, “Oh, get over it and start being grateful for what you have!” When I read the tabloids as the supermarket checkout line, I often think that celebrities are just spoiled brats. How can they take everything they have and ruin it all? How can they blow all that money off on luxuries and – worse – on drugs and alcohol – and end up so lonely and miserable?
But they often do, which provides proof, again and again, that indeed money does not buy happiness.
Rich and Miserable Beats Poor and Miserable
Whenever I bring up this subject, my husband smiles and tells me that “It’s better to be rich and miserable than to be poor and miserable,” and I guess he’s right. But while being poor and miserable makes sense to me – after all if you’re poor you have a lot to worry about, being rich and miserable seems almost sinful. If you have the money to free you from the daily struggle to survive, don’t you owe it to yourself to make the most out of your life, and to also give back to your community?
Choose Happy, Not Rich
So, do you want money or happiness?
You may be thinking how you can’t afford to choose because you have bills to pay, but are you willing to spend your life chasing dreams that may never come true, allowing memories and wonder to pass without notice?
How can you afford not to choose happiness? Imagine it’s a decade later and your children are grown. The time you intended to spend focusing on your health soared by you with zero improvements. Your most prominent memories see you struggling and scraping to “make it.” You remember long nights at work. You remember drive-thru dinners and very little else.
You chose “Rich”.
You didn’t choose “Happy”.
No matter what else is on your plate, you can make the decision to be happy, to accept where you are in life, remind yourself of what you already have, and work to get to where you want to be.
Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean you’re choosing acceptance without working for the prize. You can choose to be content and still work towards being rich. Will you be fabulously wealthy one day? Maybe, and maybe not – but you’ll be happy along the entire journey and use your precious time worrying less and being more grateful.
And I know it’s hard. Here are a few steps that will help.
How to Make Happy a Priority
Make your commitment, and stick to it.
Every morning, wake up and renew your vow to find a little (or a lot) of happiness in everything. This is key; when you wake up on a positive note, it sets your mind for the day.
When you feel the negative pull of friends or family, remind yourself of your goal and nudge them to your side. Program your brain for an automatic response that kicks you into positivity before the negativity can pull you down.
Remind yourself each night before you sleep of every happiness you found that day.
Don’t let go of your dream. If you want to be rich, be smart about your goals, and work toward them with savvy. Work when it’s time to work. Relax when your body needs it. But, most importantly, nurture those around you.
Nourish your body with healthy foods. What you power your body with affects how you think and feel. When you feed yourself artificial chemicals and harmful sugars, you alter your body’s natural chemistry and hormone balance. That alters your perception.
Give your body the movement it craves. We weren’t built to be sedentary, but today’s society isn’t geared toward natural movement like we were in the past. This means we must dig up our own. Make your body move: exercise is an incredibly effective stress reliever, and that in turn will help you be happier.
Sleep when tired. We so often push ourselves to stay up later than we should. Sleep deprivation shifts our vision toward the negative. Without proper sleep, it’s hard to be happy.
I’m not going to lie. Choosing happiness over money is difficult, but these steps can make it a lot easier.
Are you feeling miserable but rich, or miserable and poor? There are plenty of happy people rich and poor alike. What will you do differently today so you join that enviable group of people?
This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.