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11 July 2017
Featured

Money can’t buy happiness?

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We hear it all the time; ‘Money can’t buy happiness!’. Whoever says that is just not spending it on the right things. It seems there are some things that we can buy that also buy happiness.

One of those things we can buy is not so much a ‘thing’ to buy but rather a reason for buying. It seems that buying for others is just about guaranteed to buy us happiness; substantially more than in may instances buying for ourselves. 

Why is this the case?

It’s rooted in our biology. What makes us feel good is chemicals in our brain. Things that cause these chemicals to be released will result in us feeling good, in feeling happy. The holy trinity of feel-good chemicals are dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. Dopamine is our reward for doing stuff; it’s our motivator and our reward after the fact. Serotonin is our chilled happy chemical very much supported by basic things such as getting god sleep.

But no matter how good these two chemicals make us feel, neither of them trump oxytocin. Oxytocin is our love chemical. That moment of a mother bonding with her new-born baby is subtended by oxytocin. It’s also that ‘awwwww’ feeling when someone does something nice for us or when we do something nice for someone else. It even works when we see someone do something nice for someone else; maybe one person dropped their bag and you saw a stranger help them pick up their things. You don’t even know them, you weren’t even involved and you still got that ‘awwwwww’ feeling. That’s oxytocin.

So it seems that our species has a biological and biochemical basis to give us our best reward, our best feel-good, when we do something nice for people. Cool, huh! And the connection between this little meander into neuro-psychology and planting trees is,,,?

Given the very long list of reasons that planting trees is good for our environment, good for society, good for the economy, all that good-doing would have to result not only in a nice hit of dopamine and serotonin but an exquisite release of oxytocin. And the relationship between ‘money can’t buy happiness’ and contributing to re-forestation? Well, given all of the above, very likely contributing to re-forestation actually could be one of things that does what so many people say can not be done; that this money does indeed buy happiness.

So next time you want to show that something that most people say is impossible is far from it, maybe invest in reforestation. It’s money spent that can make you very happy indeed.

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Cathy Symington

PhD
Advisor

Cathy is a passionate and compelling educator in environments, sustainability and biological sciences with 15+ years experience as a lecturer.  She is skilled in coaching and consulting in leadership, effectiveness and engagement with over 12 years in this discipline, as well as being accredited as a mediator for dispute resolution.