In his excellent TEDx talk at Cambridge, Michael Norton makes a compelling case that spending does, indeed, buy you happiness, as long as you spend it on others!

Michael introduces the idea of social spending and explains how this increases the donor’s well-being. “Spending on other people has a bigger return for you than spending on yourself.”

It does not matter how you do this. “The specific way that you spend on other people isn’t nearly as important as the fact that you spend on other people,”says Norton.

Norton conducted experiments around the world to determine if  money could buy happiness. His team approached random individuals, asked them how happy they were, and then handed them an envelope containing between $5 to $20. Half of the participants were asked to spend the cash on themselves and the other half to spend it on others.

One central theme emerged from their experiments from student campuses in Canada to poor people in Uganda: those who spent money on others reported increased happiness, while those who spent it on themselves experienced no additional joy.

Nothing new under the sun?  Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Now you know what to do to be happy!

A similar, moving story is “The Coin in the Shoes.”