How to Find Happiness One Friend at a Time

by francine Hardaway on January 23, 2011

One of the worst things about The Great Recession is the way it has forced people to think about wealth and equate wealth with money. For more than two years we have had a national conversation about wealth, using wealth to mean money.  Who has it (Goldman Sachs bankers and lobbyists), and who doesn’t (homeowners, Baby Boomers looking to retire, people on unemployment). Who stole it from whom, and how it has been redistributed. This national conversation has led to resentment, polarization, and even violence. But it hasn’t led us to happiness.

Only at the end of the Recession has the conversation shifted from concerns about wealth to  a discussion about happiness. Now the happiness books and articles are coming out. Tony Hsieh‘s book Delivering Happiness, is one of the best. And in Southwest Airlines latest in-flight magazine, I read this one.

What do the happiness books say? That wealth doesn’t buy happiness.  This has even been studied, by Princeton economist Angus Deaton.

It turns out there is a specific dollar number, or income plateau, after which more money has no measurable effect on day-to-day contentment.

The magic income: $75,000 a year. As people earn more money, their day-to-day happiness rises. Until you hit $75,000. After that, it is just more stuff, with no gain in happiness.

Most people know inside themselves that happiness comes from meaning and purpose in life. That’s why when you feel bummed, the quickest way to feel better is to do something for someone else.

All this is by way of saying something made me very happy this morning. And that was a demonstration of friendship.

I am in California this weekend for the Crunchies and a series of other meetings, and my puppy Sammy is supposed to be in a training class on Sunday morning in Phoenix. I thought he would have to miss it. But two  friends of mine, Jason and Jen, who also have a dog in the class volunteered to pick up Sammy and take him to his obedience lesson.

To me, this is huge. Never mind that 8 AM Sunday morning is a grim enough time to take your own dog to a class. Then crank in the fact that you already have a dog (they have three) and that you will go out of your way to pick up someone else’s dog, take him to the class, and train him for his owner, who for all you know is lolling around in bed by the beach in northern California.

That is friendship. Now work with me here to connect the dots. I am at this moment an enormously happy person. Why? Because Jen and Jason got Sammy and took him to class. I am happy because I have friends who care enough about me and Sammy to do that for us.

And Jen and Jason? I bet they are happy, too, because their lives have been given a bit more meaning and purpose through helping a friend.

All this is merely to say that I recognize and appreciate good deeds and friendship, and that I’ve learned that community, not wealth, is the key to happiness.

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