Money and Happiness: How Spending Impacts the Brain and Keeps Us Wanting More

Money and Happiness

Money and Happiness: How Spending Impacts the Brain and Keeps Us Wanting More

Money is one of the most powerful motivators in the world. It can be a source of comfort, happiness, and security – or it can be the root of harmful habits, anxiety, and debt.  So why do we have the impulse to spend money? And how does this impact our mental health?  Examining how spending impacts the brain and understanding your relationship with money and happiness can help you gain insight to what is behind your own spending. 

Most people have a love-hate relationship with money. We love what it can do for us, but hate the way it can control us. And while most of us know that money can’t buy happiness, many of us are still guilty of trying to do just that.  It’s clear that we as a society have a deep love affair with spending money, but what is less clear is the effect this has on our mental health. In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons why we feel compelled to spend money and how this affects our mental wellbeing.

For some people, money becomes an unhealthy habit and it becomes a source of suffering as an individual finds it difficult to stop spending even when it causes them harm.  We learn that money can buy us what we want in life, and that it is essential for our happiness and wellbeing. 

Money and Happiness

As we accumulate varied experiences over the course of our lives, many of us come to learn that this is not always true – that money can’t buy us everything, and that it can in fact cause a great deal of stress and unhappiness.  It turns out that shopping is actually a lot like eating – it activates the pleasure centers of our brains.  When we see something we want, our brains release neurotransmitters in the brain, which makes us feel happy and excited. And just like with food, the more we get, the more we want.

Dopamine and Shopping

Most people enjoy shopping because it releases dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is associated with pleasure and reward. When we experience something pleasurable, such as buying something we really want, dopamine is released. This makes us feel good, and we often want to repeat the experience. This is the same hormone that is released when we eat chocolate, consume mind altering substances, or engage in sexual intimacy. According to some experts, dopamine is responsible for our feelings of pleasure, happiness, and motivation.


In addition, buying new things makes us feel good because it activates the reward center in our brain. This is the part of our brain that is responsible for motivating us to do things that are beneficial for us, such as eating food.  Shopping can provide a sense of accomplishment. After finding the perfect item and buying it, we feel a sense of satisfaction. This is because the shopping process is often seen as a challenge, and when we overcome that challenge, we feel rewarded.  


When we shop, we’re essentially getting a brain reward for spending money.  This is why it can be so hard to resist buying things – our brains are literally telling us that we’re going to be happy if we do. Shopping gives us a sense of pleasure and reward, and it’s one of the reasons why it’s such a popular activity.  In addition, shopping can also give us a sense of power and control, a sense of relaxation, and potentially boost our self-esteem in the short term.

It’s no secret that money can also be a source of stress.  According to a study, almost 75% of Americans suffer from some sort of money-related stress and overspending is one of the leading contributors to money-related stress.  From the time we are born, we are constantly bombarded with advertisements and marketing messages that tell us what we need in order to be happy and fulfilled. The promise of happiness is a powerful lure, and it often leads us to make choices that are not in our best interests.  

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