• By Deborah Balzer

Powerball Frenzy: Can a Billion Buy You Happiness?

January 13, 2016

photo of a Powerball ticket With a record jackpot estimated at more than $1.5 billion, tonight's anticipated Powerball drawing has created a frenzy across the United States. What makes us so excited about the remote possibility of correctly matching six numbers to win an enormous amount of money? Mayo Clinic psychiatrist Dr. Sheila Jowsey-Gregoire provides some insight into the Powerball mania.

Keeping it in perspective

"The marketing of lotteries is made to be very appealing and easy to personalize to ourselves. They are less likely to mention that you have as great a chance of being struck by lightning or becoming the president of the United States.  That info helps to keep this in perspective. The media hype makes this seem more likely that it could happen than is realistic."

What's the harm?

"Momentarily thinking about becoming a winner isn’t a problem, but if it becomes a preoccupation or you start spending a lot of money on lottery tickets rather than considering more realistic ways of improving your financial situation or cultivating happiness, then it is a problem."

Psychological pull

"It is easy to get caught up in a big, exciting event and to follow the crowd. Lasting happiness is something that would be helpful to cultivate instead, such as taking good care of our health, nurturing our relationships with family and friends, doing something kind for someone else."

Can money solve all of our problems?

"There is that story about King Midas. No, money doesn’t solve all our problems, but a degree of financial security is certainly important for us and is just part of a good life. Many people are happy with relatively little but are rich in friendships, loving family relationships, the ability to appreciate the goodness that is all around them and to let go of what they can’t change about the past and to really live in the moment. That is getting closer to true happiness."

On happiness

When it comes to happiness, Dr. Jowsey-Gregoire sums it up this way, "Think about what really enriches your life – do you have good health? A loving family? A safe community? The ability to enjoy the world around you? Every time you hear about the lottery, take a moment to think about what you already have that makes the world a wonderful place to be in. Would you trade your good health, great friendships, ability to enjoy nature for millions? You already are very lucky if you have a good health. In a way, you already are a lottery winner. Enjoy your good life. It is happening right now and you are living it."

 

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