One thing we all have in common is the pursuit of happiness. Society imposes the belief that money is the tool to achieve happiness, but we know that this is not necessarily true. Money can make you happier by fulfilling your basic needs, but after that… it really doesn’t go much further. People tend to believe that it is better, and that they will be happier, to spend money purchasing a material good that will last a long time, rather than spending money on concert tickets or a vacation. The truth is, this assumption is completely wrong, an experience such as travelling will make you happier on the long term than buying new material things.
An Economics professor at University of Southern California, Dr. Richard Easterlin, argues that life satisfaction does increase with money, but only up to a certain point. After conducting studies over the Easterlin theory, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University says that “one of the enemies of happiness is adaptation … 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”. He basically suggests that, in your search for happiness, instead of spending money on a new car or tv which you will grow accustomed to, you are better off investing in experiences such as outdoor activities, travelling, learning new skills or art shows.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”
It is important to consider how shared experiences will connect us to people more than shared consumption: you will connect much more with the person with whom you trekked the Inca Trail, than with the person that has the same smartphone as you. “We consume experiences directly with other people,” says Gilovich. “And after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.”
In short, go travelling, go to concerts, go out with your friends, do extreme sports, arts or any type of activity! Chances are that the happiness you will feel from sharing and talking about that experience with others, will outlast any object you can buy.