Ahh, the pursuit of happiness. It is what most people are after. Some economists believe happiness is the best indicator of how healthy a society is. It seems that even though money can make you temporarily happier, once your basic needs are met, it doesn’t continue to do so. For most of us, figuring out how to spend our money, which is a limited resource, is a question that continues to perplex us. Can experiences make us happier than a new T.V.?
The majority of people tend to make an assumption when spending money: because a physical object will last longer, it will bring us happiness for a longer period of time rather than a one-time experience like a holiday or a movie outing. However, recent research shows us that assumption is entirely wrong.
A study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology shows people who made expensive purchases on products rather than investing in experiences, immediately started to devalue an item’s worth after buying it.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been studying the connection between money and happiness for over two decades. “There’s a lot of work in the area of well-being and happiness showing that we adapt to most things,” Gilovich said. “Therefore, things like a new material purchase make us happy initially, but very quickly we adapt to it, and it doesn’t bring us all that much joy. You could argue that adaptation is sort of an enemy of happiness. Other kinds of expenditures, such as experiential purchases, don’t seem as subject to adaptation.”
Maybe instead of buying the latest model sports car, or succumbing to the most recent fashion trend, Gilovich suggests you invest your time and money into going to museums, or travelling.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
You would think this would be obvious, but society is so easily manipulated into buying things they don’t need, it seems that people believe happiness can be bought. Why buy a brand new phone when you could put that money towards visiting a country you have never seen before? Experiences are everything. Let’s try to collect more memories than things.
By Raven Fon