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Studies Show That People Who Buy Experiences, Not Things, Are Happier

Studies Show That People Who Buy Experiences, Not Things, Are Happier

Let’s say that you recently came into a bit of money. What would you do with it? Would you rather buy a bunch of high quality gadgets and products, or go on an expensive vacation to a unique and exciting locale?

Personally, I’ve wavered between the two. I like my gadgets more than most, so I’ve probably spent more on electronics than your average person. That said, I’ve been on trips taking me all across the United States, and I definitely think I am better off for it.

Luckily, the question of whether to spend your money on products or experiences has been answered by science, and thus you’ll no longer have to worry about whether you should choose one over the other in the future. So what is the verdict? According to San Francisco State University, people are far more satisfied when they purchase experiences, than they are when they buy material objects.

And yet, most people, including myself, are prone to spending our hard earned money on things like clothes, shoes, gadgets, jewelry, cars, and the like. We do this because these things are tangible: we can hold them, use them, etc. When we buy experiences, all we have are the memories, and thus, it seems like we’re getting less out of our purchase.

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What that study reveals, however, is that in the long run, we cherish our memories and experiences far more than the things that we buy. And it makes sense. Decades from now, will you remember your cross country trip that took you to the Grand Canyon, or that Xbox you waited in line for all night? Probably the former.

Let’s break it down into simpler points. Why exactly are people who buy experiences, rather than objects, happier?

1. They have plenty of memories to fall back on.

Professor Thomas Gilovich out of Cornell made a point of saying that while new things are “exciting to us at first,” they quickly become blasé as time passes. Soon enough, they’re a mundane part of our daily existence that adds little if anything to the amount of joy we feel on a daily basis.

We’ve all felt this with our smartphone purchases. For the first few weeks, they’re so amazing that you just can’t stop using them. You do everything on them: text, e-mail, web browsing, e-reading, and more. In about a month, though, you get used to it. You start treating it like a “thing,” rather than something that actively brings you happiness.

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I’ve often asked myself why so many people have smartphones with cracked screens. Is it because so many folks are simply that clumsy? After doing the research for this article, I’d have to say no. It’s because people stop seeing their smartphone as “valuable” over time, and thus, they’ll treat what was once an expensive purchase with the kind of reckless abandon that leads to drops, scratches, and inevitably, cracks.

Those who spend the majority of their income on experiences, however, don’t have this problem. While they may not have the latest smartphone, they are likely more well-traveled, and thus have far more life experience. While others need to keep buying new products to keep their spirits up, those who buy experiences can always fall back on their good memories when they need to. It’s much like comparing a sugar rush to a good nap. One is more instantaneous, but the other has more lasting benefits.

2. They reap the long-term benefits.

With over 79 million millenials in the United States (three million more than the amount of Baby Boomers), we are bound to change the way that things work.

One part of this comes from the fact that we’ve grown up during an economic recession. As such, we haven’t had the luxury of being able to spend what little money we have on objects with fleeting value. Instead, we’ve been focusing on long-term investments like higher education and travel.

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Indeed, when I was in college, I noticed how many of my peers chose to save their money for traveling abroad, or to make student loan payments, rather than splurge on alcohol or other purchases typical of young adults.

Not only does this save resources in the long run, but it allows us to forge an identity in a world where it’s becoming harder and harder to find one’s place. And doing so, according to researchers, is a crucial aspect of growing up in today’s world.

3. They share their experiences with others.

As introverted as I am, I must still admit that I am happier when I have a bit of social interaction now and then. Additionally, conversing with others is always more fun when you get to recount some kind of unique experience to them. Indeed, Peter Caprariello and Harry Reis examined this phenomenon in a 2013 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. What it found, essentially, was that experiences make us happier because we get to share our memories with others. Buying objects leaves us feeling more hollow because they are normally things that we use by ourselves.

It’s probably why, in one study, researchers found that those anticipating an experience (like waiting in line to see a play), rather than the purchase of an object (like waiting in line to buy an iPhone), were found to be much happier. It’s because they knew they were going to experience something that they could share with other people. Something that will help them connect with others in a particularly unique manner. As nice as a new iPhone is, in the end, it’s just one smartphone in what’s likely to be a long line of smartphone purchases in your lifetime.

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This kind of happiness-related research is already having a major effect. Indeed, you can find several articles (like this one) detailing the lives of those who traded in their material-based lifestyle for one centered around things that are more substantial, such as travel and education.

While it’s obviously impossible to completely stop buying material objects, we can stop basing our happiness in terms of how many nice things we own. As these studies show, what truly brings us enjoyment and fulfillment in the end are our experiences, and the resulting memories that we get to share with our family and friends.

Featured photo credit: Couple/Mo Riza via flic.kr

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Last Updated on September 30, 2020

How to Live a Stress Free Life in a Way Most People Don’t

How to Live a Stress Free Life in a Way Most People Don’t

Learning how to live a stress free life may seem impossible, but the truth is that there are specific things you can do to begin eliminating sources of stress.

No, it doesn’t look like a made-for-television movie. No, it doesn’t look like something only people with extra time and money can do. It looks like your life—but without any self-created stress triggers.

Here are 11 ways to help you live a stress-free life:

1. Stop Overanalyzing Situations That Haven’t Happened

The first step to living a stress-free life is to stop overanalyzing imaginary scenarios. It’s easy to spend time in the world of worst-case scenarios. People tend to cultivate this world for one of two reasons.

First, because if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then it won’t surprise you when it happens. Second, if you know what the worst-case scenario is, then you can do everything in your power to control the universe so the worst case never happens.

If that’s really the world you want to cultivate, then become a professional risk assessor. If not, then ask yourself how you are benefiting from continuing to live that way.

Does it make you feel better about yourself and your life? Does it make you want to leap out of bed in the morning, eager to embrace the worst-case scenario? Does it bring you joy or fulfillment?

If your answer to these three questions is no, then stop living in the future and bring yourself back into the present.

2. Don’t Take on Other People’s Problems

The whole advantage of other people having problems is that they aren’t your problems. When you frequently take on other people’s problems, you get into the habit of enabling.

Let’s get crystal clear about the definition of enabling: enabling is the art of continuing to take responsibility for other people, thereby disallowing their personal responsibility[1].

It is of no service to other people to take on their problems because they can’t/won’t/don’t know how to fix the problem.

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It is of service to empower others to take responsibility for themselves and their lives, to encourage, teach, and motivate others to address their own problems. So stop enabling, and start empowering.

3. Get Present in the Moment

Being present in the moment involves being in your body and feeling your feelings—two things that lots of folks actually don’t know how to do.

Ask yourself these two questions: What does fear feel like in your body? What are you afraid of?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you probably aren’t present in the moment. Being present involves vulnerability, humility, and openness[2].

How to live a stress free life by being present

    The past and the future stop being so relevant and intriguing when you’re able to get in your body and feel your feelings. When you can do these two things, you actually want to be in the present moment.

    To get started, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and watch your stress levels drop. Then, try these tips: How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying.

    4. Focus on What You Have, Not What You Don’t

    The easiest way to stop focusing on what you don’t have is by not watching TV commercials. Marketing teaches us to focus on what we don’t have, and advertising campaigns spend millions of dollars convincing us that we must have what we don’t yet have.

    Can you think of a marketing campaign that teaches you to enjoy what you already have without buying something to enhance it? Odds are you can’t.

    In a world dictated by Super Bowl commercials and Facebook ads, it takes stalwart focus to recognize what you have more than what you don’t. If you want a stress-free life now, get stalwart, and stop letting other people dictate your focus.

    In order to do this, try cultivating a gratitude practice to help refocus your mind toward what is good in your life. You can get started with this guide.

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    5. Stop Surrounding Yourself With People Who Don’t Make You Happy

    Honestly, what kind of people do you really like to be around with? People who get you, who see you clearly, who accept your flaws and all; people you can be yourself with; people who have shared interests?

    How many of those people are in your life? What characteristics do all of the other people in your life have?

    If you find that the people in your life aren’t adding anything positive, it may be time to make some changes. If you find that other relationships you have are downright toxic, start working to cut out those relationships immediately.

    6. Find a Job That Makes You Feel Good

    You don’t have to stay at a job just because it pays the bills. Most people spend more time working than sleeping. The average person spends 40 to 80 hours a week—or 2,000 to 4,000 hours a year—working. That is a significant investment!

    If your best friend or child told you that they were going to spend 4,000 hours giving their emotional, mental, and physical energy to something (or someone) that wasn’t going to value them, give anything back to them, or pay them what they were worth, what advice would you offer? Give that same advice to yourself. You won’t be stress-free unless you don’t learn this[3].

    Here’re 11 Signs That You Should Leave Your Job.

    7. Only Take on What You Can Handle

    Busyness is an addiction. Slowing down can actually be terrifying because it causes you to notice that you have feelings that you now have time to feel.

    I get it.

    By the time I slowed down, I had decades of busyness under my belt. I went into a tailspin depression because I didn’t understand how to be in the right relationship with my own emotions.

    When I finally figured out that feelings are just feelings and allowing them to express themselves is healthy and natural, I stopped experiencing withdrawal from my addiction to busyness and started figuring out the pace of life that felt best for me.

    Remarkably, I discovered that I don’t actually like being busy. What will you discover about yourself?

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    8. Let Go of Grudges and Anger

    For me, it took 20 years of adulthood to figure out that holding on to grudges and anger only hurt me. Lucky for you, though, you can benefit vicariously from my experience just by reading one short paragraph!

    No one is holding your feet to the fire, demanding that you hold on to grudges and anger. The energy of anger slowly eats away at your body, mind, and spirit, until one day you wake up more resentful than optimistic.

    One day, people no longer want to be around you because the stink of negativity is oozing out of your pores. One day, you even get tired of hearing yourself get angry. And the person or people you are angry at or holding grudges against probably haven’t been affected at all.

    Who gets hurt the most in that process of repeating negative thoughts? You do.

    Some good advice for you here: How to Let Go of Resentment and Anger

    9. Stop Reliving Your Past

    To live a stress-free life, you have to stop reliving your past. I know it seems like fun to compare everything in your present to your past, and to experience the present through past-colored glasses, but it actually isn’t.

    When you wear past-colored glasses, you can’t truly experience the present for what it is. Your boyfriend or girlfriend gets compared to a list of expectations and failed relationships rather than recognized for the unique blessing they are in your life.

    Your boss gets compared to all the bosses who came before her/him. Your friends’ ability to parent gets compared to your parents’ ability to parent.

    People, including you, deserve to stand on their own past-free merit.

    10. Don’t Complain About Things You Can’t Change

    There are always going to be people elected into office whom you don’t like, taxes that you don’t want to pay, idiot drivers who refuse to move out of the left-hand lane, and a person ahead of you in the check-out line who won’t stop chatting with the clerk.

    The great benefit of being human is that we get to experience all of what life offers us. To live stress-free is to learn to deal with this fact.

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    Dwelling on your frustration with something that can’t be changed doesn’t do anything other than drag you down. You are the only person who will ultimately decide how to respond to what is.

    11. Stop Living Through Other People’s Lives

    Someone else’s life is not your life. Your life is your life.

    What that means is you get to live your life in the way you want. You get to make ridiculous mistakes, take leaps of faith, and stuff things inside your handbag of fear just as much as the next person.

    Going through stuff is the whole great messy adventure of being human! Being alive and living life is terrifying and glorious and everything in between.

    Stop living through social media, trying to soak in all of the experiences everyone else is having. Focus, instead, on what it feels like to be you in this moment. You may find you like it.

    Final Thoughts

    An astounding thing happens when you reduce stress and anxiety, get into a relationship with your body, mind, and spirit, and just be yourself without judgment.

    Your life literally slows down. You stop wishing for the weekend. You begin to live in each moment, and you start feeling like a human being. You just ride the wave that is life, with this feeling of contentment and joy.

    You move fluidly, steadily, calmly, and gratefully. A veil is lifted, and a whole new perspective is born through improved mental health. And this is how you live a stress-free life.

    More Tips on How to Live a Stress-Free Life

    Featured photo credit: Drew Coffman via unsplash.com

    Reference

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