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5 Reasons Why Experiences Make You Happier Than Possessions

5 Reasons Why Experiences Make You Happier Than Possessions

Ask anyone what their ultimate goal in life is and most people will tell you they want to be happy. Happiness is something we all strive to find. We believe that we will only be happy once we achieve certain things like buying the perfect house, getting married or making a load of money. For most of us money is a limited resource and what we spend our money on is what should ultimately make us happy.

It’s a great misconception that having more money will make us happier. Many studies have found that reaching a goal of wealth does make us happy but that our happiness quickly decreases thereafter. Material possessions are rife in this day and age of advancing technology and we tend to want to spend our hard-earned cash on the latest smartphones, computers or cars.

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Given a choice between spending our money on possessions or some sort of experience, most people will opt for the latest gadget believing that it will make them happier in the long-run. After all, a new phone will last a lot longer than a three week holiday to New Zealand, right? Well that’s where you may be wrong and here’s five reasons why.

1. We Adapt To Possessions Quickly

Ever bought something and felt that happiness high? You think that thing is the best thing in the world in that moment, but six months down the line will you still feel the same about it? Probably not. The problem is, as humans, we are made to adapt to things. Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist from Cornell University has done extensive research in the link between money and happiness. He has found that the enemy of happiness is adaptation and we can get bored of things very easily, especially with possessions that we have less emotional attachment to. Gilovich’s studies have therefore found that money buys happiness, but only up to a point.

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2. Possessions Foster Comparisons With Others

You are much less prone to negatively compare your own experiences to someone else’s than you would with material purchases. Envy can be created through comparisons about material wealth, leading to the harbouring of negativity towards others. Experiences don’t seem to have the same effect – more people tend to be fascinated rather than envious of travel, compared to what somebody owns. This is because it’s hard to quantify the relative value of any two experiences as they are very individual, therefore, jealousy and envy aren’t as much of an issue.

3. Experiences Form Our Identity

What forms our identity is not what car we drive, what latest smartphone we have or the fashionable clothes in our wardrobes. Our identity is made up of an accumulation of everything we’ve seen, the things we’ve done, and the places we’ve been. Buying the latest iPhone is exciting but it isn’t going to fundamentally change who you are; walking the Inca Trail in Peru or doing a skydive in New Zealand will enrich your life in far more ways than you could ever know. At the end of the day, we are the sum total of our experiences.

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4. We Are More Interested In People’s Experiences Than Possessions

Shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. Talk to people about the latest gadget you’ve bought and you may get some takers but you will most likely lose your audience after a while. Talk about your travelling experiences and you will find people are interested to know more, they will engage with you better, and it will encourage similar stories. At the end of the day, you can’t really bond with someone who also has an Apple Watch but finding someone who has been to the same places as you can be the start of a friendship.

5. Experiences Last Longer

It is a misconception to think that a physical object will last longer than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation but this isn’t the case. Once we’ve experienced something it stays with us for years and even a lifetime; the investment is much greater and the effects are prolonged.

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Anticipation is a huge plus when it comes to experiences. Excitement starts from the very minute you start planning a vacation or outing somewhere and lasts all the way through to the experience and the memories you’ll cherish forever afterwards. Gilovich also discovered that although an experience creates this excitement and anticipation, buying or ordering a purchase actually causes impatience rather than excitement.

So, maybe think twice about what you would rather spend your money on. Happiness can’t be bought but there are definitely ways of spending our money wisely that will help us achieve more happiness in our lives.

Featured photo credit: Danka and Peter via magdeleine.co

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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