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Money doesn’t buy happiness

['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']
['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']

Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

You might think receiving a cheque for $611,319.50 would be cause for joyous celebration. However, that was not for case for Barb Reddick of Margaree. Reddick's nephew – who traveled some distance to purchase $100 worth of tickets for her was asked to also put his name on the tickets “to bring her luck.”

She was very lucky...one of the tickets purchased for her won.

The total of the win was $1,222,639.00 and the organizers split the amount since there were two names on the ticket.

Now Barb Reddick is suing her nephew for the total amount, plus court costs. She insists she never meant to split the winnings with him. No matter what the outcome, there likely will be very little happiness as a result of the windfall for Reddick or her nephew.

Since I am of Danish heritage I have taken a bit of delight in noting that the Danes are probably the happiest people, I have done a bit of research into why the folks in that tiny country would be so far above the United States in the happiness quotient.

Another one of my recent summer reads has been a book, Lost Connections, by Johann Hari. The author spent many years researching depression and anxiety, with the idea of sorting through causes of these unpleasant conditions... to thus possibly bring healing. Hari, and others, have found there are three kinds of causes of depression and anxiety – biological, psychological, and social. There are some conditions which occur because of a chemical imbalance... thus have a physical component. These are usually treated with medication, with some interaction with a therapist. However, these are fairly infrequent. Psychological causes might be childhood trauma, or possibly a betrayal... or being attacked. Working with a therapist is usually the best form of treatment.

Social factors have to do with learned values, status, and level of security. A key aspect regarding happiness is a sense of equality within society. In Denmark there is not a great deal of difference between the lifestyle of the owner of a company and the workers. In the United States a boss can easily take home 300 times the amount earned by a worker. Because of the fairly equal lifestyles it is easier to see oneself as being of value in society. Another factor in Denmark is the focus on family and friends. The Danes are more likely to spend their income on experiences and memories, rather than things.

Extrinsic goals (those from society) often result in working at jobs that are not enjoyable – since earning money for the latest fashions, the big house, the luxury car are pushed from an early age. Proof of extrinsic goal focus is the latest toy sold on TV is a “must have” for your seven-year-old – and the designer label is a “must have” for your teen. Materialism means big bucks for manufacturers of goods.

Unfortunately, television may be instilling depression and anxiety in today's population. You can never have the best car, the biggest house... there is always someone who will have more than you, resulting in you feeling “less than.” When a person works simply to make more money there is less time to focus on intrinsic goals and values. Family activities might suffer, friends are forgotten.

It isn't money that is the problem. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are extremely wealthy. They have also given away much of their wealth to benefit education and other worthy causes. Their money gives them opportunity to support their intrinsic goals and values. At the opposite end... look at the leader to the south of us. He brags about how much money he has. However, rather than using some of his wealth to benefit others, he uses it to create the “appearance” of extreme wealth.

If anyone wonders about the level of anxiety Donald Trump might be experiencing – just check out his many tweets. In looking at the situation with Barb Reddick – extra wealth is not going to take the place of the connection to family.

Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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