In the end, there is no denying that part of the difficulty of the current economic tides is not just a matter of positive thinking; there are legitimate problems and stresses associated with feeling the pinch of a mortgage payment, watching your retirement or college savings account dwindle and having to cut back on enjoyable pastimes. In fact, much of the research evidence points to the fact that material circumstances are related to a person's happiness.

If you are anything at all like Ilene, you too have worried about recent economic trends. It makes sense to fret over the kids' college funds or your retirement account precisely because these things are important. It is equally sensible to, like Ilene, examine all areas of your life and not get hung up only with financial setbacks. Remember to take stock of your health, friendships, spirituality and goals. Finally, when it comes time to spend money, especially discretionary funds—even in small amounts—it makes sense to purchase gifts, experiences and opportunities to interact with others.

5 ways to get happiness dividends from your dollars

Dr. Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener are the authors of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, which won the 2008 PROSE award for best book in psychology. The father-and-son team has published, collectively, nearly 300 scholarly articles on happiness.


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