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10 Reasons Why People Who Spend Money on Experiences Are Happier

10 Reasons Why People Who Spend Money on Experiences Are Happier

Imagine you are presented with two envelopes. One contains a diamond necklace and the other contains tickets for a 2 week trip to Brazil. Which would you choose?

The necklace is jaw-dropping and would elicit a chorus of admiring looks when debuted at your next soiree. But how long would it take for the novelty to wear off only to be relegated to the confines of your jewelry drawer?

What about the trip to Brazil? Sure, it’s not a tangible thing that you can display with a flourish on your décolletage. But wouldn’t your anecdotes about that canoe trip down the Amazon make for an interesting dinner party conversation?

Over the past decade, an abundance of psychology research has shown that experiences bring people more enjoyment longevity than material possessions.

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A purchase is generally done on a whim. Whichever end of the spectrum the purchase falls, be it expensive jewelry or a new pair of shoes it is usually appeasing an emotional need. Whether it’s to cheer yourself up or a need to obtain the latest status symbol, a material purchase can mask these needs. Temporarily.

Word has apparently gotten out as there is a huge segment of people who have shifted their thinking in this regard. Rather than continually being at the whim of the urge to consume, these people are opting for life enhancing experiences instead.

Here are 10 reasons why people who choose to spend their money on experiences are generally happier for it:

1. They know the thrill factor of a material purchase is limited

We’ve all been there. That subversive thrill as you whip out your credit card to purchase the latest [fill in the blank] that you have been ogling for months. But seriously, how long does that thrill last? A month? Until a newer version is released? Material goodies satiate us for a little while but once that feeling wanes, you find yourself back at the place where you started. Feeling empty and looking for something material to fill you up.

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2. They understand that an experience keeps on giving

An experience, whether it’s buying concert tickets or planning a trip to Europe, seems to offer infinitely more possibilities than treating yourself to a new wardrobe. A material purchase tends to lead you into a cul-de-sac of possibility; you traverse around a few times showing it off and then feel disillusioned once again. Experiences however set you out onto the open road, both literally and metaphorically. Who knows what will happen? Who you will meet? What you will see?

3. They understand experiences open the mind

An experience can fundamentally change you. Shake you to your very core and change everything you thought you knew about life. Or it can be just… fine, no big shakes. Even if it’s terrible, it ends up not really being that terrible after all. Especially in hindsight. When we choose to open ourselves up to a certain experience, we are effectively stepping outside of our usual routine. New sounds, smells, languages and tastes can spark fresh insight and may have the potential to revitalize the mind.

4. They know that anticipation is everything

Research has shown that experiences have a longer lasting effect on pleasure longevity. The first stage involves researching the experience that you want. The second stage comprises the actual booking process. And then the best stage, the anticipation, where you tick the days off the calendar smug in the knowledge that in X amount of weeks you will be road-tripping around Italy. When we buy less and do more, we tend to savor every single piece. A gadget is fun, for a little while, before you tire of its shiny buttons and move onto something else. The magic of being an experientialist is in the anticipation.

5. They understand its reduces Keeping-Up-With-The-Jones-itis

We are all guilty of it. Getting a secret thrill out of the flash of envy in your neighbor’s eye as you pull into your driveway in your brand spanking new BMW. It feels good to purchase the latest and greatest. Yet experiences in general are so personal that even if your friend regales you with tales from her adventures exploring windmills around Amsterdam it doesn’t even seem to tickle a nerve. Windmills just don’t do it for you, or clogs for that matter. You can’t compare experiences, who had the better holiday?

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6. They understand that the anticipation will be a positive experience.

We’ve all seen the media coverage of Black Friday sales. People waiting in line at 4am to get their mitts on the latest flat-screen TV. Pushes turn into shoves and before you know it two grown adults are fighting over the one remaining Panini press. Yet you don’t often see grown adults fighting over the set list at a Beyoncé concert. In fact people bond over these types of experiences, sharing their love of Queen Bey whilst shaking their fingers along to Single Ladies.

7. They know that money paid for memories is money spent better

If that trip to India was a disaster, there was still something to be gained from it. Even if it’s just a firm understanding that you and Indian food do not get along together. Time is life’s great eraser and those memories of the 14 hours spent curled around a toilet seat might seem pretty funny when you regale it to your friends’ months later.

8. They know that consuming leads to more consuming

It’s a vicious circle. The more you buy the more you want. So you finally saved up for those beautiful designer heels but just as you hand over your credit card you notice they also come in grey. Immediately the focus shifts and the satisfaction gained from purchasing the shoes wanes as you start to imagine just how well rounded your closet would be if you had both pairs.

9. They know that experiences provide better value for money

Material purchases have a much shorter shelf life than an experience does. Electronic gadgets are only as good as the latest version. What happens when another version comes out? However those dollars spent renting a house with friends in the countryside will provide you with a plethora of fond memories to look back on that practically guarantees you won’t need to shell out for an updated version.

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10. They understand that experientialism silences the inner braggart

Experiences tend to be more resistant to unfavorable comparisons, a wonderful family dinner in a restaurant is personally yours and difficult to compare. Far less chance for one-upmanship over whether you had the beef rather than the chicken. And yet those shoes you purchased that were featured in Vogue are less likely to stand the test of time by the time the latest Spring/Summer looks roll around.

At the end of the day, experiences tend to bring us closer to people. Humans are social animals and being closer to people tends to make us happier. In the act of making a material purchase, it tends to separate you from other people, whereas doing something tends to bring you closer.

So, next time someone hands you two envelopes which one do you choose?

Featured photo credit: julien. H via flickr.com

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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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