31 March 2015

How To Lead A Happier Life: Spend Money On Experiences, Not Things

Image: Angela Itakpe

Happiness. We all crave it for a joyful and more fulfilling life, but how do we actually go about obtaining it?

The logical assumption is that spending money on a physical object will result in higher levels of happiness since it lasts longer, compared to a one-off experience like a concert or vacation.

However, recent research suggests that material possessions do little to increase our happiness, and that we should be focusing on experiences rather than things.

“We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for awhile. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them,” explained Cornell University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich in an article by Fast Company.

These findings were the culmination of psychological studies he and other professors conducted on the Easterlin paradox, which states that money can make us happy, but only up to a certain point.

Studies have shown that people adapt to material purchases over time, which leads to decreased levels of satisfaction; the irony is that things you can keep for a long time pale in comparison to an experience you only live once.

Gilovich also added that unlike physical belongings, experiences become a part of us. “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.”

One reason why shared experiences contribute to our happiness is that they connect us to other people. This explains why we feel closer to a friend we went on a trip with, instead of someone who buys the same bag or shirt as us.

In another study conducted by researchers Ryan Howell and Graham Hill, they found that people were less likely to negatively compare their own experiences with someone else’s as opposed to comparing material purchases, such as the size of their flat screen television or the latest car model.

According to Gilovich and Amit Kumar in their article in the academic journal Experimental Social Psychology, employers and policy-makers alike can utilize the findings by directing investments and crafting policies that promote the happiness of workers and citizens.

On a micro level, how does this information aid you in leading a well-rounded, rewarding life? The answer, found in this article all along, is to spend money on things that make you happy.

Read the full article over at Fast Company.

[via Fast Company, image via IMGembed]