Obviously, for those who lack the basic means of subsistence and for whom money becomes a question of survival, obtaining more wealth brings a legitimate sense of satisfaction. However – and this might be more surprising to some – it appears clearly that beyond a relatively low thrash hold of wealth, the level of satisfaction remains unchanged even as income continues to rise. Between 1949 and now, for instance, in the United States, real income has increased more than two folds, while the number of people who declare themselves “very happy” has not only increased but even decreased slightly.
As Ricard Layard, of the London school of Economics, states: ” We have more food, more clothes, more cars, bigger houses, more central heating, more foreign holidays, a shorter working week, nice work and above all, better health. Yet we are not happier…..If we want people to be happier, we really h ave to know what conditions generate happiness and how cultivate them.”
One of the main sources of pople’s discontent comes from comparing themselves with others in their family, At their work place, and among their acquaintances. As Layard explains, ” There are many cases where people became objectively better off but felt subjectively worse. One is East Germany, where the living standards of those employed soared after 1990, but their level of happiness fell: with the reunification of Germany, the East Germans began to compare themselves with the West Germans, rather than with the other countries of the formers Soviet block.
Repeatedly comparing our situation with that of others is a kind of sickness of the mind that brings much unnecessary discontent and frustration. When we have a new source of enjoyment or a new car, we get excited and feel that we are at the top of our game. But we soon get used to it and our excitement subsides, when a new model comes out we become unhappy with the one we have and feel that we can only be satisfied if we get the new one, especially if other people around us have it . We are caught on the “hedonic treadmill” it means while jogging on a treadmill we need to keep running simply to remain on the same spot. In this case we need to keep running towards acquiring more things and new sources of excitement simply to maintain our current level of satisfaction.