Science can measure your self assessment of happiness. It is up to you to shop wisely in “buying” happiness.
Science is a process that seeks truth. Money is an abstract concept invented by humans for convenience. Can the science process teach us anything about abstract concepts of convenience? As is the answer with most complex issues, yes and no. It is of course, multi-factorial. People do find ways to simplify their lives, in part by financial planning. This process may allow you to have less stuff, and fewer obligations, to, in effect “buy” more time with those you love, and that is the secret to happiness. But it is easily complicated, as most every product sold is playing upon your wish to “be free.”
First one has to define what they mean by science. Some people think of metrics. We can measure by inventory such things as overall contentment and satisfaction. We can measure high blood pressure, heart rate, susceptibility to over-eating, drinking, gambling and every kind of addiction. All of these can contribute to, or decrease; “happiness.”
Then we have to define money. Do we mean our take home pay that dictates a certain lifestyle? Is it the love of money that drives us into type A behavior? Or is it the need for power that money allows? Is it something you must have to feed your starving children? Maybe you just want money to get more crack. But if you are reading this, you probably just feel “a little more money would offset my addiction for Internet knowledge, reading all day ,and being such a geek!” There are so many reasons people seek money, everything from fame, status, or power, to sex appeal, and plastic surgery budgets can be obtained with money.
All that being said, there are some ways to at least ascertain whether these metrics can in fact in some way measure ways in which people associate their happiness with lack of, or sufficient amounts of money.
However, my guess is that the question implies something else. People are forever searching for the meaning of life, and the meaning of life that we mistakenly attach to having more money sets up a cultural phenomenon that teaches us to think and act under a kind of societal self delusion. The delusion which is more often assumed than actually described goes something like this. Complete the following sentence, (without peeking ahead) :
If I only had more money I would ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
You may have said you would buy a bigger house, or a college degree, or a hot new car, or to save the endangered lemurs, or cure cancer, or any number of things. It doesn’t matter what you said. What matters is that you assume to do these things more money is the answer. It is for this reason that we mistakenly associate having money with having our heart’s desire, and therefore more happiness.
Now complete this sentence, (again, without peeking ahead):
The happiest moments of my life were spent when I
Chances are very good that unless you answered “the day I won the state lottery,” you said something like.. when ( whosoever) he/she agreed to marry me, or when we were swimming back at the lake, or the days I spent back on the farm, or when my child took first his or her first steps, or hiking in a forest ,or exploring on a beach. If you really are honest you will find that what created those moments of happiness is connection. The connection may be to the awesome beauty of a redwood tree, or gazing at the stars, or better yet, doing anything like this with another person, or even pet, that you truly love.
We evolved socially and our greatest contentment is with the things that connect us to our origins of our belonging. Our joy with the familiar also gets us into trouble. It is the source of xenophobia, racism, even holocausts, but overall it is to our benefit to belong. Einstein had some thoughts about this. He said: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few person nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty”
It is important to include the whole quote here, because Einstein is saying that our thoughts and our feelings disconnect us from a wider, miraculous whole. Money is such an abstraction that brings so much suffering into the world, that it is worth reflecting upon how our thoughts and feelings about it dictate so much of what we do. We attach to this optical delusion of our consciousness.
Nothing new here, Buddhism and Jesus had such thoughts too, but the modern advent of Ecopsychology and Evolutionary Psychology, as well as openness to the truth of all science and art also reveal that it is our connections that create happiness. Or, better yet our connections allow us to abandon a futile quest for an abstract called “happiness.” We can recognize that we belong and we find wonder and joy in widening our circles of compassion.
People now go on eco tourism vacations, have genuine interest in polar bears and saving whales. We are disgusted when we see greed create something like the Gulf oil spill. We celebrate when we unite and provide something fantastic, like our National Park system or see earth views from satellites. We have great innovations to take us to space and to discover insights into our minds, our cells, our DNA, and our four billion old earth creation story. A green economy is being born. Connection to all of this is driving our ambition to create clean energy, learn about Biophilia, provide alternative industries for developing nations, and to share humanity and life through the world wide web. All these developments are based on our desire to connect; to widen our circle.
Ironically, they are also great ways to make money.