One conclusion from my happiness-project research: I don’t spend enough time thinking about how money could buy me happiness.
Sure, money can’t buy happiness. But it can’t buy unhappiness, either. We’re in control. And for many elements of happiness, money helps a lot.To take an obvious example, health is very important for happiness, and money sure makes it easier to stay healthy.
So I’ve been trying to think of ways that money could help me reach my various happiness goals. While we were on vacation, I had a great idea: have family photographs taken by a professional photographer.
Years ago, an older friend remarked to me, “One of my greatest regrets about my children’s childhoods was that I didn’t have more professional pictures taken—they’re so much better than even the best snapshots.”
I agree, and ever since my kids were born, I’ve been zealous about arranging for pictures. One big help is that my parents often give me a combined birthday/Christmas present of a photo session while we’re in Kansas City. (In fact, why have I not asked that that be my gift every year?)
Remembering happy times gives a big boost to happiness, and looking at photographs—which practically never record bad times; who takes photos at a funeral?—helps make those memories more vivid. And while it’s a lot of fun (and also a pain) to take pictures myself, it’s also nice to have some pictures that are particularly well-done.
While we were at the beach, I realized that our friend Jamie Watts, a professional photographer, was there, too. So I asked if he’d mind interrupting his vacation to take some pictures. No problem. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I’m sure they’ll be terrific, and I’ll have great photographs for us, as well as gifts for the grandparents and great-grandparents. It makes me happy just to think about it.
So the money I spent on the photographs will strengthen family bonds, enhance happy memories, and capture a fleeting moment of childhood. Pretty good. People have different levels of wealth, of course, but anyone who has any disposable income can reflect on how spending money differently might bring a happiness boost.
This is also a great example of the tiresome fact that happiness takes thought and effort. These photographs were easy to arrange; in the scheme of things, not hugely expensive; will contribute greatly to our family happiness; and yet it probably never would have occurred to me to organize it, unless I happened to be thinking about happiness all the time.