The pursuit of happiness is something that I’d say about 99 percent of the people on this planet are chasing after. Happiness is at the foundation of why we do anything, right? Every single choice we make in life will be and has been based on how we’re feeling in the moment.
There’s a very logical train of thought that says because material objects last longer, they will make us happier for longer when compared to a one-off experience like a vacation or a concert. According to recent research, it appears that this assumption is entirely wrong.
"We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them," said Dr. Thomas Gilovich, psychology professor at Cornell University.
While new things might make us happier at first, we adapt to having them, and their meaning to us changes over time. So rather than buying that shiny new Apple watch or shelling out for a brand new BMW, research suggests that you’ll get more happiness by spending that hard-earned cash on experiences like art exhibits, participating in outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but the truth is that material objects’ permanence is the main reason why it falls behind in terms of happiness value. Material objects are always there, meaning they become part of your everyday life; they fade into the background and become part of the new normal, while experiences become ingrained in us as part of our identity.
Even having negative experiences were considered good ones at a later point in life. Talking about and assessing these negative experiences often result in us realizing that situations that were scary or stressful in the past are now funny stories to be told; they become invaluable character-building experiences.
You tend to share a stronger bond with a person who you hiked the Appalachian Trail with than you would share with a person who just bought the same television as you. Because of this we should look at the implications this research has for individuals who want to maximize their happiness return on financial investments, employers who want a happier workforce, and policy-makers who want to make their citizens happier.
This blog post has been reproduced with the permission of Expanded Consciousness. The original blog post can be found here. The views expressed by the author are not necessarily endorsed by this organization and are simply provided as food for thought from Intellectual Takeout.