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Harvard professor says winning $20 million lottery won't make you happy

Harvard professor says winning $20 million lottery won't make you happy

He said money isn't the solution, but pointed out four key areas that could make a difference

A Harvard professor has explained why winning $20 million on the lottery won't make you happier in the long run.

It's become a bit of a cliche that money can't buy you happiness, and while most of us can understand that point in principle, we all know that money can buy us a nice big L-shaped sofa, a trip to the Maldives, or a new toilet seat that doesn't slide around all over the place. And we'd all be happy if we had those.

As such, discovering that you'd won $20 million on the lottery would surely make any sane person on this planet jubilant. However, Dr Sanjiv Chopra - a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School - has explained why this happiness would most likely be short-lived.


In a 2019 TED Talk, he said: "Let's say you win $20 million on the lottery. The research shows that at the end of a year, they're back to their baseline. Some are less happy."

He continued: "They might have bought a huge house, a big mansion, a new car. Some of them spent it away, not in good ways, they gambled away the money.

"But even if they did, at the end of three months, it's just a house, it's just a nice car. You get used to it."

Dr Chopra explained that this process of getting used to what you have is called hedonic adaptation, whereby people return to a set level of happiness regardless of their worsening or improving circumstances.

You will have experienced this first-hand on many occasions; you get used to a certain standard, and rather than being delighted every time something is up to your standard, you become disappointed when it falls below it.

I remember being blown away the first time I watched a football match in HD - but a few months later I was blown away by how bad it looked when it wasn't in HD.

So if money and HD TV and stable toilet seats aren't the keys to happiness, what is?

Dr Chopra outlined the four key things that have been scientifically linked to happiness, starting out with friends.

"Your friends are your chosen family," he said.

"Choose your friends wisely, and celebrate everything small or good with your friends."

He continued: "The second attribute of people who are happy is the ability to forgive... If any of you harbour a grudge, my plea to you - get rid of it."

The third thing on Dr Chopra's list is giving, and indeed many lottery winners have reported deriving more happiness from being generous to others than spoiling themselves.

And the final key to a happy life is gratitude.

"If you don't know the language of gratitude, you will never be on speaking terms with happiness," Dr Chopra explained.

"All the research has shown that if you express gratitude on a regular basis you will be happy, you will be more creative, you will be more fulfilled - you might even live 10 years longer."

Featured Image Credit: Stock Photo

Topics: Money