We’ve always known that a being a positive person or a negative person is all about repetition – laying neural pathways in our otherwise plastic brains. There are also reward pathways which through diet and drug abuse can lead to addictions.
Not all major lottery winners are happy. In fact, according to the work of psychologists Brickman, Coates, and Janoff-Bulman(1) lottery winners didn't report themselves much happier than people in the general community who hadn’t won the lottery. And while paralysed victims showed to be less happy than people in the general community, the difference was not that big.
It turns out that what makes us happy, what motivates us, follows the philosophy of Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. We do things for ourselves that help grow us and are important to us, we do things that we have to struggle with to improve ourselves, and we do things that make us part of a bigger world, and all of these three things have the capacity to make us happy or happier.
So winning the lottery in itself won’t make us happy, but if we use that money to do things that are important to us, that improve us day to day, and that make us part of a wider socially meaningful project it makes us happy.
1. Brickman, P., Coates, D., Janoff-Bulman, R,. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 36(8), Aug 1978, 917-927. Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?