Happiness and Winning the Lottery

June 24, 2013

“I would be so happy if I won the lottery!”  How many of us have said that?  You could buy anything you wanted, you wouldn’t have the stress of that mortgage or car payment anymore. .. and yet, studies show that winning the lottery typically doesn’t make you happy.  It can actually make you less happy in the long run for two reasons: contrast and habituation.  Contrast means that compared to the experience of winning the lottery, other “regular” pleasures we experience on a daily basis are less enjoyable.  Habituation means that the stuff you buy with your winnings ceases to be so exciting because you get used to it after a while.  Then what happens if (when) you plow through your winnings and have car payments and a mortgage again?  You might get used to it in time… or, as one study suggests, you might idealize your past and forever feel bad about these payments because you remember fondly when you didn’t used to have them.   What is something you could put that weekly lottery ticket money towards that might make you truly happy?