Money Can’t Buy Happiness, So What’s The Secret?

By: Stephanie Kirby

Updated February 19, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Amy Brown

We've all heard the saying "money can't buy happiness," but it's still a hard lesson to learn. Many times, it seems like if only we had more money we would be able to have more of the things that we want in life and avoid more of the stress.

However, one quick look at the tabloids shows us that isn't true. There is story after story of actors, actresses, sports stars and others that have endless amounts of money experiencing the same pain and hurt as the rest of us. Divorce, cancer, drugs, and drama are still there even when you have a lot of money. But, that still doesn't stop us from thinking "if only I had more money."


A few years ago, Chris Janson broke onto the country music scene with his song "Buy Me a Boat." It's a funny take on the saying that money can't buy happiness. The lyrics say, "I know everybody says money can't buy happiness, but it could buy me a boat, it could buy me a truck to pull it. It could buy me a Yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets. Yeah, and I know what they say, money can't buy everything, well maybe so, but it could buy me a boat".

His song says what so many people think-money might not be able to buy happiness, but it can buy me a whole lot of other things that would make me happy. But, no matter how hard we believe that it just isn't true. So, what is the secret to real happiness? The secret is there isn't just one thing you need to do to be happy.

Stop Trying To Please Everyone

You will never be happy if you are trying to please everyone else. Many people fall for the idea that they will be happy if they can make the people around them happy. This can often start in childhood. You desire to please your parents and do anything you can to make them happy. As you grow up, you put this same pressure on others that are around you. This could be your coach, a teacher, a boss, coworkers, friends, and significant others. You will never be happy if you are living like this.

People's wants are always changing, and many people have unrealistic expectations. You will make yourself miserable if you are always trying to keep everyone else happy. Instead, you need to figure out who you are and what you like to do. It doesn't mean that you will never do something nice for someone else, but it does mean that you will not allow your happiness to come from someone else. Discover who you are and make changes that you feel are in line with who you want to be, not who someone else wants you to be.

Focus On The Good Things In Life

Life is full of trials. If you think that you can't be happy until everything is right in your life, you are going to be waiting a long time. Choose to focus on the things that are good in your life. Spend time each day purposefully thinking about what is good around you. It could be simple things like being in good health, having a job, and food to eat. You could be thankful for your family and your friends. Or, it could be something as simple as being thankful for the blue sky, white clouds, and the flowers that are growing on the side of the road. There are a lot of things that we have to be thankful for in this life even when there are some things that aren't going right.


If you choose to focus solely on the things that are going wrong in your life, you will struggle with finding contentment. It is difficult to be positive when it seems like everything is going wrong. Some situations seem to consume your life. It makes it difficult to think of anything else because it demands your attention. During these times it seems like nothing is going right. You don't want to hear about other people being happy because you feel so unhappy. However, you have to make a conscious decision to slow down and highlight what is going well, and what you feel gratitude about.

Keep A List

One way to do this is to keep a list of the things that you are grateful for in your life. Every day add something to the list. You will begin to see how blessed you are even when everything is not going well. You should also keep track of at least three successes that you have every day, whether they are big or small. This will help you to feel more confident, which then helps you to achieve greater levels of satisfaction and happiness.

Making Wise Decisions

Poor decision-making always come with consequences. You might not experience them right away, but they have a way of catching up with you. It's hard to be happy when you are suffering from the natural consequences of your own decisions. It can be especially frustrating because many times in these situations you have no one to blame but yourself.

It is always easier to make a wise decision from the start than it is to recover from a poor choice. To make being happy easier be especially careful to make wise decisions. Carefully think through your actions and what the possible consequences are.

Here's an example. If you start charging purchases to your credit card all the time and you don't pay off the balance at the end of each month you are going to accumulate a lot of debt. Once you are in over your head, it becomes hard to make the minimum payments on your cards. Then money is tight, and you don't have a lot of financial options, which will cause you stress that could have been avoided.

In our example, the better decision would be to not go into debt in the first place. Making the wise decision from the start, even if it doesn't seem like fun at the time, will make you a lot happier in the long run.

Learn To Control Your Emotions

A surefire way of being unhappy is allowing yourself to be controlled by your emotions. This can be a hard lesson to learn. The majority of people are used to just going along with whatever their emotions direct them to. Not only is this an exhausting way to live, but when your emotions control your decisions, it is hard to make good ones.

To make a change in this area, you need to learn how to acknowledge your emotions, while simultaneously controlling your behavior through your thoughts and actions. This begins by learning to control your thoughts and what you spend your time thinking about. When you can do this well, you can look past your emotions and make wise decisions. This will help you to live a more stable and consistent life, which will make you happier in the long run.


Surround Yourself With People That Make You Smile

You've heard that laughter is the best medicine, and there is a lot of truth to that statement. If you want to be happy spend time with positive people that make you smile. If you don't care about being happy surround yourself with negative people. Pessimistic people can make you feel hopeless. They will constantly find something to complain about. Their constant criticism of you and others is sure to drag you down.

That is why you need to limit the amount of time that you spend with negative people. This includes negative friends and family members. It can be hard to set boundaries with these individuals, especially if they are family members, but it is important for your happiness that you do so. Be polite and firm and let them know that you will not be a part of their negative conversations. Stop asking for their advice in your daily life, and refrain from telling them about decisions before you have made them. These are not people that you want to ask for advice from or process important decisions with.

Once you have limited your time with negative people, look for positive people to spend time with. Find people that make you smile and laugh. Happy people have a way of rubbing off on others. These are the people that you want to develop relationships with and learn from.

Don't Be Afraid To Ask For Help

There is a big difference between feeling down every once in awhile and truly struggling with your emotions. If you struggle with feeling depressed the recommendations above will help, but you should seek help from a professional. Better Help has licensed counselors that are waiting to help you.

It's true that money can't buy happiness. Discovering true happiness is a choice you need to make and a process that you can walk through. But, you don't have to do it alone. A licensed counselor can help you pinpoint the root of your trouble and identify the steps you need to take to overcome it.

Previous Article

Everything You Need To Know About The Happiness Advantage

Next Article

Are You A Victim Of Fake Happiness?
For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns
Speak with a Licensed Counselor Today
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.