It is well documented that money and happiness are very highly correlated. I certainly wish it wasn’t the case, to be honest, but the reality is it affects our overall happiness. Money is the number 2 cause of divorce, 55% of people are unhappy with their finances according to The Motley Fool, and (dirty little secret) it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of it or a little.
However, this series of blogs isn’t going to focus on how money can make you unhappy, because quite frankly that is not what we coach here at Diversified Lifelong Advisors. Rather, we believe that a healthy relationship with money, plus our planning partnership can lead to a very positive relationship with money. When used correctly and thought of through the right frame of mind money can be the world’s greatest enabler of happiness (contrary to popular belief).
This topic is one I personally spend a lot of time researching and learning about as it truly fascinates me. I also feel it allows me, and my fellow Diversified planners, to be in a position to truly champion happiness.
Alright, enough back storytime to get to the topic at hand. For this 4-part series, I’m going to focus on the key happiness chemicals in one’s brain, and how money can impact it.
Today I’m going to focus on dopamine, or often referred to as the “feel-good” hormone. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter hormone that acts as a kind of reward system for the brain. It plays a major role in how we experience and feel pleasure. Dopamine also has a large impact on our ability to think, plan, learn, focus, and find things interesting.
Ways to Trigger Dopamine Utilizing Money
For starters, dopamine is released when you set a goal and achieve it. This is why when you get that promotion, save enough for that big vacation, or hit a new personal record, let’s say, running a mile, you feel happy. Without thinking about it we know it feels good, but associating these planning and achieving rewards with happiness should give you a new perspective.
How can finances and financial planning help with this? I guess I’d respond with – how can’t it? Do you know how many times a client comes into my office nervous about financially affording a goal or a dream such as a beach home, retirement, college, etc? You know how many times that client leaves, not only relieved but with an extra pep in their step, because they are well on their way? You can see how money, planning, and goals release that very critical happiness hormone called dopamine. To maximize this hormone set both long-term goals and short-term mini-goals.
Sleep baby sleep! Are you like me and can never find the right pillow? Or what about the mattress – are you still sleeping on that old mattress you got when you were first married? News flash! A good night’s sleep is critical to releasing or preventing dopamine production. Money Alert! Use that little nest egg to spring for that optimal sleep comfort. Don’t believe me? Go to a really nice hotel for the night and see how you smile as you slip under that nice comforter propped up on those fluffy pillows. Man, I’m smiling just thinking about it!
Staying on theme yoga and meditation are great natural ways to release dopamine. Sign up for that class and enjoy the many benefits it offers. Added bonus: go to a class with a friend and then grab a nice healthy lunch after filled with laughter. It is proven that all these things are great releases of dopamine, oh and they cost money (usually).
You an audiophile or music nut like me? Well, good news if you are! Music releases lots and lots of that happiness hormone. Why not save up for a special concert, or boost that record collection like me (FYI, just bought my wife Steve Winwood “Back in the Highlife Again” as I know it makes her think of Summer and happiness). These are great ways, that generally aren’t very expensive, to boost that dopamine hormone.
A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away. Don’t you wish that is what they taught you in grade school? Well, if they did, they wouldn’t be fully wrong. Now alcohol releases dopamine (as does drugs which I’m far from advocating). Of course, we have to be careful with any alcohol consumption, but that glass of red wine can have many health benefits, one of which is releasing dopamine. Naturally, this is the only reason I own 300 plus bottles of red wine!
Stress on the other hand is a huge inhibitor of dopamine. How can we use money to release stress? Well, about one million ways if you think about it. Go on a trip, do an activity you love, go pay for a freaking massage, do a date night and make love to your significant other, or literally anything else that helps lower your stress. All these things I mentioned promote dopamine release.
Sunshine, you are my sunshine. The final thing I’ll mention today is sunshine. Good old vitamin D! If lack of sunshine makes us sad and depressed, what do you think lots of it can do? You guessed it – release dopamine! This holds especially true when we hit those cold, dreary months. What if you saved up to go on a vacation once or twice a year to escape the dreariness and go get that dose of sunshine? It has the added benefit of planning something that you look forward to and then spending your money to go get that sunshine.
Don’t be a Dope – Use Money on Dopamine
Hopefully, you can see a few of the many examples of how you can change your relationship with money and happiness. Money can be a huge enabler to your ability to maximize your dopamine levels. It takes planning and thoughtfulness to say the least. That said, partnering with a good financial planner can help you realize what can and can’t be done while keeping it all in focus.
Until next week’s part 2 – stay wealthy, healthy, and happy!