There are psychologists who say that due to adaptation, happiness quickly diminishes after we purchase a material good; whereas satisfaction with an experience we had, actually increases even long after the experience has passed. I believe that is because our experiences play a large role in establishing our character and our identity; whereas, a material good tends to blend into the background of our normal days after awhile. Am I suggesting you never buy materials? No. That's absurd. Unless you want to become the quintessential "minimalist." I'm simply suggesting that experiences are more likely to maximize your well-being.
So what's the pathway to more enduring happiness through experiences and materials? Consider these 5 approaches..
- An experience with your family and friends. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explains specifically that it is social experiences verses solitary experiences that are more likely to make us happy. Meaning that when we include friends and family along for the journey, our happiness increases(1). Not entirely surprising since we are relationship driven.
- Go places. This would include everything from a quick-afternoon getaway, planned activities, vacations, humanitarian trips and even spur of the moment trips. Your mind has the chance to imagine what these experiences are going to be like, which often translates to excitement. When you purchase a material good, you pretty much know what you're going to get.
- Anticipation. Even if you are purchasing a material good, savoring those moments until that material is in your possession, is more likely to trump impulse buys.
- Ask yourself one question: "Is this going to make this experience possible and or be essential for enhancing the experience?" If the answer is no, then it is likely a non-essential. If the answer is yes, then those types of purchases are likely to be far more sentimental and attached to memory of your experiences, simply because they made them happen or enhanced the experience. The object itself was not the source of happiness, it was the experience.
I want to hear from you! What has your experience been? (No pun intended). How do you balance the mix of material and experiential purchases?
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