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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 March 30, 2020

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

2. Be Honest

A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

4. Succeed at Something

When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

Final Thoughts

When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
[2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
[3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
[4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
[5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
[6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
[7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
[8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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