PAULA LOVEDAY: Happiness is not just about money.
PAULA LOVEDAY: Happiness is not just about money. Contributed

LIVING THE DREAM: Happiness is linked to income for many

AUSTRALIANS needed the highest income of all nations surveyed to feel satisfied and happy, a university study has found.

The study - Happiness, Income Satisfaction and Turning Points Around The World by researchers at Purude University, Indiana, in the United States - found that Australians felt they needed $USD 125,000 ($AUD 171,800) a year to reach a great level of happiness.

That compared unfavourably to Northern America ($AUD 144,300) and Western Europe/Scandinavia ($AUD 137,500). Globally, the figure was only $AUD130,600.

But at least one local researcher believes there is more to happiness than just money.

Paula Loveday, who completed her PhD in Positive Psychology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, believes what we desire more than money is priceless: relationships.

"There is no one in the world that doesn't want good relationships with family and friends," she said.

"Connections with others don't just feel good, they also give us a sense of competence, as we see successful relationships as an achievement."

Ms Loveday believes we are happy when the people we love feel happy and successful.

"The happiness and success of people we love has a positive influence on our mood, as we want loved ones to have a good life as well," she said.

Apart from social well-being, she said physical and psychological health also were important to us.

But Ms Loveday does agree that money plays an important role in what most people define as "living the dream" - the ability to do whatever they want whenever they want.

Money gave people that autonomy, and therefore they felt happier at the start of making more money - but only to a certain point, Ms Loveday pointed out.

"Once it gets to a certain bar, the happiness increase stops," she said.

"You can do more work and earn more money, but there is not more happiness after that limit."

Ms Loveday said worldwide research had found happiness was 10 per cent circumstances, 50 per cent genetic and how you were brought up, and 40 per cent was in your control of how you looked at life.

People's circumstances hardly mattered, once the basic needs such as food and a safe place to live, were covered. The 40 per cent depended on attitude - see what you have rather than what you are missing.

"Often people in developing countries, who have much less than us, are happier than people in Australia," she said.

"Therefore, it just has to be about something else."

Ms Loveday investigated the mechanism of the Best Possible Selves activity: a 15-minute exercise in which participants imagine their life working out in the best possible way.

She believes that when people start thinking differently, they can rewire their brain, which has a major impact on how positive they are about their future and therefore become happier.

She said if someone asked her "How can I make my life feel like I'm living the dream?", she would reply: "Pay more attention to it. Notice things."

Paula Loveday's tips for happiness


* Pay more attention to the things you have in life and be grateful for them.



* Spend time with people that make you feel good about yourself.



* Unfollow social media accounts that make you jealous or unhappy.



* Nurture your relationships.



* Spend more time with people than your phone.



* Notice the little things in life.