If you think having loads of money (from a good job?), good looks or the admiration of others will improve your life, think again. A new study shows that these things can actually make you LESS happy.

Materialistic and image-related milestones actually contribute to ill-being since, despite their accomplishments, individuals experience more negative emotions like shame and anger and more physical symptoms of anxiety such as headaches, stomachaches, and loss of energy. By contrast, individuals who value personal growth, close relationships, community involvement, and physical health are more satisfied as they meet success in those areas. They experience a deeper sense of well-being, more positive feelings toward themselves, richer connections with others, and fewer physical signs of stress.

Psychologist Edward Deci says, “People understand that it’s important to pursue goals in their lives and they believe that attaining these goals will have positive consequences. Our study shows that this is not true for all goals. Even though our culture puts a strong emphasis on attaining wealth and fame, pursuing these goals does not contribute to having a satisfying life. The things that make your life happy are growing as an individual, having loving relationships, and contributing to your community.”

Striving for wealth and adulation, on the other hand, does little to satisfy these deep human requirements, at least within this early career stage of life. Unlike the lasting benefits of caring relationships and hard-earned skills, the thrill of extrinsic accomplishments fades quickly and all too soon, the salary raise is a distant memory and the rave review is forgotten.

Art credit: Dreamstime.com

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