Sometime ago I was in the doctors office waiting room and I picked up a Time magazine that had an article that caught my eye about “Buying Happiness”. Can we actually buy happiness? My dad, who was a very successful self made business man, (whose wisdom I’ve come to appreciate and respect more and more the older I get), used to say, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it will sure make life a lot easier”. No argument there. The problem is, particularly in our culture and consumer times, we’ve been sold a bill of goods since our great grandparents popped out of the womb – we are conditioned to think happiness is some external object to be obtained. We set some goal to be reached, conquered, acquired or purchased, and it is always in the future, and we think -the more stuff I have, “big things, little things -toys, gadgets, art… even subtle things like knowledge, skill, prestige, adoration, “spiritual wisdom”etc. – the happier I’ll be”. I’m as guilty as the next person, I slip out of the present moment and off into some phantasmagoria of happiness. Sometimes it takes some vigilance to be present. Now I’m not saying money is evil or “material things” are bad by any means, (it’s all in what you do with them, or they to you), to quote Elizabeth Dunn, a social psychologist in a similar article: “The problem isn’t money, it’s us. For deep-seated psychological reasons, when it comes to spending money, we tend to value goods over experiences, ourselves over others, things over people. When it comes to happiness, none of these decisions are right: The spending that make us happy, it turns out, is often spending where the money vanishes and leaves something ineffable in its place.”

There were some interesting things concluded from some of the studies on wealth and happiness that this Times article was pointing out. One thing it mentioned was that once people reached a “comfortable standard of living” they reach a sort of stasis in happiness, (which according to data collected from half a million Americans in this study, was an income of about $75,000. – I know it can be attained for much, much less).
If your not living in poverty or struggling for existence, not worried about your basic needs and able to obtain “things that are not to extravagant”, (-according to this study – making about $75k a year, which by the way is far greater than the U.S. average of approx. $42k), -then, and this is interesting – doubling your income will not double your happiness, they calculate only a 9% increase in satisfaction from doubling your efforts/income. That’s a lot of time, (which you can’t buy back), and effort, for little return.

They also went into what were some of the “returns on investment” in terms of $ for “Happiness”, and this is what really caught my eye, (because here at the Casa, I discovered, we are really in the “Happiness Business”). It appears that objects are far less satisfying than experiences. One can buy a new watch, a car, clothes or gadget, but the gold soon looses it’s glitter – as we become “accustomed” to the object in our presence. Drake Bennett in a similar article in the Boston Globe explained it thus:”Why don’t things make us happy? The answer, I think, has to do with a fundamental feature of neurons: habituation. When sensory cells are exposed to the same stimulus over and over again, they quickly get bored and stop firing. (That, for instance, is why you don’t feel your underwear.) This makes sense: the brain is an efficient organ, most interested in the novel and new. If we paid attention to everything, we’d quickly be overwhelmed by the intensity of reality.” (-sounds like an artist to me.). “Unfortunately, the same logic applies to material objects. When you buy a shiny new Rolex watch, that watch might make you happy for a few days, or maybe even a week. Before long, however, that expensive piece of jewelry becomes just another shiny metal object – your pleasure neurons have habituated to the luxury good…”

So what do they point to as a good return on investment – Experiences – in particular, “unique, enriching, learning travel – even more so when shared with a loved one(s)”. (sounds like the Casa Experience to me). This and “giving in charity, giving gifts, spending money on someone else”, these are the greatest returns on investment with $ for happiness, (or combine them both together). Instead of buying things we are buying memories and experiences that make us “richer” human beings.

As an artist I know that when we are in the “zone” of creativity, we are full of life energy flowing through us, it is a meditation in which awareness expands to the point of oneness, time stops and we are in the eternal present. It is the greatest gift, and I try to offer it back.

We wish for you all the best in this holiday season and the new year to come and may you give yourself and others the greatest gift of happiness.

Hope to see you this winter at the Casa in charming and unique Boca de Tomatlan.
Warmly, Bob & Monica & Family