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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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