Experiences Make Us Happier than Material Goods: Here’s Why

We live in a consumerist society. We’re constantly exposed to advertisements telling us all the things we need to be better, and it’s easy to get caught up in this mindset. We all want to be happy, so what does the science really say? Research over the past decade has shown that experiences make us happier than material goods. Why is this the case? Psychologists believe happiness lies within moment-to-moment experiences. We can’t be in pleasant moments all the time, so while it’s still good to try and stay present regardless, the reality for most of us is our minds tend to wander quite a bit. Research shows that our minds actually tend to wander toward dark places, unless they have something positive to look forward to in the future, or something fond to remember about the past. So when you can’t live in the moment, the best place to reside is in the anticipation of the future. Research shows that anticipating an experience elicits more happiness, pleasantness, and excitement than anticipating a material good. Waiting for a material good involves more impatience. People also tend to have fonder memories of experiences than of acquiring possessions. Also, people are more likely to compare their possessions with others than their experiences. Furthermore, experiences are more associated with identity, social behavior, and connection, which lead to long term happiness. Even after the fact, people enjoy sharing their experiences and hearing about other people’s experiences more than they enjoy discussing possessions. It’s okay to invest in and enjoy material goods, especially ones you get daily or weekly use out of. But, with this information in mind, there are probably purchases you can forgo to save money and effort that you can then put toward bringing more experiences into your life–and the lives of those important to you! These experiences can range from bigger vacations to smaller weekend trips, to simple evenings at a restaurant or movie theater. It may be time to reconsider what types of gifts you are giving others, and what type of rewards you are providing for yourself. It’s time to create more happiness for you and your loved ones!