Key to True Happiness: Experiences of Things?
We don’t have all the money in the world, and we spend most of the time deciding between two things because we can’t afford to pay both of them. For example, you want new tablet or laptop, but you also want to go abroad for your birthday or anniversary and in most cases, the choice is a laptop. Money can, indeed, make us happier to some extent; but the biggest problem we face is where to allocate the limited resource. When deciding how to spend the money you earn, why is it a smarter idea to invest it into a valuable experience rather than on some item? Let’s find out.
One-off experience vs. materialistic happiness
When having to choose between one-off experiences such as visiting some travel destination of going to a concert and purchasing some item such as phone and other gadgets, expensive shoes and jewelry etc. most people choose latter option. This happens because people are convinced that purchase of a physical object will make them happy for a longer period of time; after all, you can use your phone for years while concert or travel is over as soon as you enter your home. But, is that really accurate?
According to the recent research, assumptions like the one mentioned above are completely wrong. The research was conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich and Amit Kumar and their paper was published in the academic journal Experimental Social Psychology.
Dr. Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, states that the biggest enemy of true happiness is an adaptation. He has been studying the association between money and happiness for more than two decades and reveals that although purchasing new phone or even new car can, indeed, make us happier it only lasts for a short period of time. We adapt to certain things, and they stop being exciting to us.
You have probably experienced this situation before. For example, if you’re fan of technology and new gadgets that are constantly released on the market, you get the urge to get them. Sometimes, you even spend hours reading all technology news and finally decide what to purchase. Your new gadget is fun, exciting, has a number of cool features, and when you get to know them all, you don’t feel excited about it anymore.
Gilovich suggests that rather than spending money on various products you will get more happiness spending money on experiences such as outdoor activities, travel, exhibits, concerts, learning new skills and many others.
Science of true happiness
Gilovich’s findings are the synthesis of psychological studies that he, and many other scientists, conducted about Easterlin paradox. The paradox refers to a notion that money makes you happier but only for a while. Gilovich also inspected how adaptation affects happiness by asking participants of his study to self-report their happiness with major experimental and material purchases.
Results of the study showed that initially, happiness with these purchases were ranked the same. However, over time people’s satisfaction with things they bought decreased while people’s happiness related to spending money on some experience went up.
Why does this happen? Gilovich explains it is due to the fact that our experiences become part of us and our personality. For instance, you can really like your phone, shoes, clothes, even your car, but it is never part of you or your personality (even if it’s personalized), on the other hand; things you experience become part of you. Our own personality is just the sum of all experiences we’ve been through.
Furthermore, happiness based one experiences even improves your love life or social life in general. According to Gilovich, you are more likely to bond with someone during shared experience rather than through shared consumption. Isn’t a trip to London more fulfilling and exciting than watching a movie on your new laptop?
Want to be happy? Live!
Based on the scientific approach, the key to real happiness is through experiences we create for ourselves. Here’s the list of cool experiences you should definitely spend your money on:
- Road trip
- Sleep under the stars
- Make something from scratch
- Conquer your biggest fear
- Learn another language
- Stay off the internet for a week
- Go to a major sporting event
- Go to a concert
- Swim in the ocean
- Go camping etc.
While spending money on brand new phone or tablet sounds tempting, the happiness, you feel after you make the purchase doesn’t last too long. On the other hand, different experiences make you happy and enrich your personality and your soul. Plus, whenever you think about what you’ve done you will feel happy.