What is happiness to you? A question I am often asked by family and friends. In our busy lives, it’s hard to pinpoint. We are accustomed to a consumer society, where the media is constantly enforcing the idea of happiness through the acquisition of material goods. Are we spending our money on possessions that bring quick happiness or investing in experiences that bring genuine joy? Ask yourself, when was the last time you invested in a bit of self-care.
I know it’s hard getting over the ego bump of owning expensive things, like buying the perfect house, driving the sports car, wearing the trendiest clothes and posting all this on social media through the latest device. The earlier we learn that tangible items aren’t the things that are making us happier, the better. I can reassure you it’ll have a positive impact on your life...and most probably the planet. Let’s look at the reasons why spending our money on experiences makes us happier than buying stuff.
1. Things Don't Contribute to Social Connections
It’s been proven in multiple studies that social interactions make us live longer. We don’t form connection with things, not proper, meaningful relationships, as we do with people. Growth and development is attained from the connection we form with others. What do you bond over? Discussing the material possessions you own or reminiscing on the experiences you’ve shared together? Social relationships and the people you share experiences with are vital for a happier, healthier life.
2. The Happiness Wears Off
Millennials have become one of the largest demographics and we often hear how they are out gallivanting the world, enjoying life. Well, one of the best studied research topics into happiness showed that this age group has redirected their income in a way that helps them achieve this. Three in four millennials prefer and value experiences over materialistic stuff, as shown in a study conducted by Harris, investigating Eventbrite’s nationwide research of millennials. They found this generation value experiences so much more that they are happy to spend their time and money on them. From touring across Bali on scooters or hiking Machu Picchu, to skydiving over the golden beaches of Byron Bay. Best of all, it doesn’t take a lot of money to do it these days.
Although not limited to millennials, happiness has never solely come from possessions or career success. Building a happy life has come from ‘creating, sharing and capturing memories’. You’ve probably heard the phrase you can’t buy happiness. Well this often refers to material possessions that last longer than experiences, and therefore, logically are thought to make us happier. Interestingly enough, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, undertook a 20 year old study that proved quite the opposite. He found, like I’m sure we’ve all experienced, the novelty of our new purchases very quickly wears off. The phenomenon behind this research is called Hedonic Adaptation. For sustainable longer happiness, try two anti-adaptation tools: variety and appreciation. Change things up, take an afternoon hike through the mountains, try a yoga retreat (cheeky plug) or a simple brunch with friends.
Millennials have been called lazy, unmotivated, ungrateful and unaware of reality, but are they doing something that might be worth trying. Things can be a part of our identity but they are still separate, while experiences are really part of who we are.
3. Fresh Eyes
Venturing off the beaten track, or experiencing something you haven’t before gives us a chance to reflect. A moment to gain new perspectives and be truly immersed in all that surrounds us. Travelling and experiencing moments does truly heal the soul. It allows us to get out of the day-to-day routine, detach from material items, giving new perspective and time to revitalise. Have you ever stopped and given gratitude to the environment you’re in or the people you’re with. Experiences are far more memorable than possessions, and usually teach us valuable life lessons. Reflect on the culture, the people, the food and nature. All elements that create life-long memories. Take travel for example, we step into a space, not our own, and start to realise that things work differently and that's okay. We come to understand cultural differences. Even if we don’t agree with it all, we are learning to be more thoughtful, compassionate, grateful and humble. We become open to change.
4. Experiences are the Driver to Purpose
When we learn that things aren’t a sustainable choice to happiness, we can venture and nurture the desire to explore. With travel, we become open to new perspectives and often this creates clarity for our purpose and direction in life. Whether the experience be as simple as sharing a meal with someone on the beach or something a little more adventurous, like taking a yoga retreat in Italy, these situations aid in creating purposeful experiences. When we invest in time for ourselves, it creates clarity for us to find purpose and carry out our aspirations. We are guided and influenced by experiences, finding purpose and passion through such adventures, not material items, that only bring quick satisfaction. I’ll give you an example, think of your favourite music artist. You might have their album, the signed copy of the vinyl, t-shirts and posters, but you’d probably trade all that to see them front row at a concert right? Something to think about hey.
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