To be prosocial (which encapsulates philanthropy, activism and generosity) is to be optimistic that one’s contributions or behaviors matter. As Jim Giles wrote in the New Scientist (excerpts below) prosocial acts, not possessions, increase happiness. So acting towards material comforts might be asocial, reinforcing my idea that pessimism is tied to our meatspace reality and that our material reality is one of inadequacy and futility.
Money can buy happiness, but only if we spend it on others, say researchers behind a three-part psychology experiment.
The study is interesting because it suggests that the way money is spent may be more important than total income, which people often focus on as a source of happiness, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychologist at the University of California, Riverside.
Lyubomirsky has recorded similar increases in happiness in students who were asked to perform acts of kindness, such as helping a friend with their homework.
She suggests that the reason may be due to the way we adapt to changes in our lives.
“Moving into a bigger house will give you a happiness boost, but you then get used to the house,” says Lyubomirsky. The same goes for other types of possessions.
Acts of kindness, by contrast, are more likely to produce unexpected positive outcomes, such as a favour performed in return. Prosocial acts also enhance our self-perception in a way that possessions do not, adds Lyubomirsky.
From Jim Giles’ “Give away your money and be happy,” NewScientist.com, March 20, 2008