We were first prompted to think of this question when we read an article by Fastcoexist, back in March 2016. Whereby they discussed, should we be spending our spare money on experiences rather than ‘things’?
Money Makes You Happier!
It’s already acknowledged that money does make you happier but only until your needs are met. After that, it doesn’t make you that much happier. We spend our money on physical objects believing that they last longer, and hence give most pleasure, but is that right?
Dr Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University, USA, confirms ‘the enemy of happiness is adaptation’. By this, he means, when we buy new stuff, we live with it for a while, it then becomes old stuff (we’ve adapted to it) and we seek out the pleasure of buying more new stuff.
We get more happiness from experiences, and these don’t have to be expensive. Art galleries, walking around your town as if you’re a tourist, playing in the park and of course camping are all relatively cheap.
Get the experience
The Easterlin Paradox explains the above, first used in the 1970’s to explain why Americans were not becoming happier, despite their rising incomes. Added to the paradox, is the element of adaptation, surely a physical object should keep you happier for longer?
However, the physical object is never a part of you; it is always separate. An experience is an integral part of your being. You can recall that experience daily, and enjoy it again and again. Of course the same happens for those moments when you wish the ground would swallow you up! Those experiences, according to Dr Gilovich, can be made to be positive. Studies show that even though the experience was negative, once people have the chance to talk about it, the assessment of the experience goes up. It becomes a character building experience and a good talking point at dinner parties!
Sharing an experience, more fulfilling than sharing your iphone?
Spending our hard earned cash on experiences, gives us an invaluable connection to each other, as humans. We are much more likely to connect with others over a shared experience of festival mud than we are over the latest iPhone.
If we share an adventure with someone, we become part of their story and they part of ours, I don’t think our latest Smart TV will feature heavily when I reminisce in old age!
This research should have an effect on us and the lives about us; shouldn’t policy makers, employers and societies be looking towards rewards of more paid holiday time and recreational bonuses? Shouldn’t we be looking to cut the competition with the Jones’, never mind they have a bigger TV, we just jumped out of an aeroplane!
We leave the last word to Dr Gilovich, ‘As a society, shouldn’t we be making experiences easier for people to have?’
If you’ve read this and would like to read more, here’s the original Fastcoexist article and Dr Gilovich’s paper on A Wonderful Life: experiential consumption and the pursuit of happiness