Experiences more than things create a sense of happiness. For centuries, consumerism sells the idea that you can find happiness when you buy a certain product or service. That you will be happy when offered the opportunity to buy whatever your heart desired. Is the secret to happiness owning more things? Or is it doing more things that make you feel happy, free and put a smile on your face when you reminisce about a particular or meaningful experience?

Facing the paradox of possessions is part of daily life. Somehow society has cultivated a culture of buying new possessions with the hopes that these materialistic objects will make you feel fulfilled, successful, accomplished, beautiful, desirable, attractive, and the list goes on and on. The paradox however involves one getting used to new possessions and then raising the bar on what is needed next. And finally having the Joneses’ lurking which in itself minimizes your newest and dearest possession.  Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a professor at Cornell University conducted a 20-year study that found that people shouldn’t spend their money on things but rather on experiences.

There are a number of reasons why experiences trump owning possessions. Experiences are part of us, nothing can take your memory of a particular holiday away. Although possessions can be lost in a fire or robbery. It is difficult not to believe your identity is linked to your things but in reality, the person you are is a result of the experiences you have had. An experience seems fleeting but its value generally increases over time. Experiences will help one understand who you are and what you want from life. 

Another reason that experiences are better than things is that one can’t simply compare one experience with another experience however material things allow for blatant comparison. Who has the latest and grandest or newest model? Gilovich highlights that experiences benefit us because being in anticipation of the experience matters. Anticipation of waiting for the experience causes excitement and enjoyment however waiting for your new item can cause one to be impatient.

When you choose to expose yourself to different experiences you will also meet different people and foster new relationships. These relationships might help one invest in yourself or in others.

Invest in yourself and your family today by implementing the author Paulo Coelho‘s wisdom: “Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience” as an underpinning to leading a happy life. Here are some suggestions for new experiences: 

  • Do a cooking class
  • Go on a hike
  • Go on a safari tour/whale watching or on a guided walk through nature
  • Learn a new language
  • Visit a new place- even a neighbouring area/ town
  • Pick flowers at a flower farm
  • Start a new hobby
  • Have a picnic
  • Visit a museum or botanical garden
  • Go and check out an art gallery
  • Try cold water emersion
  • Spend a night star gazing
  • Try a new restaurant

Hey Happy wants to encourage you to take a plunge and plan your next experience. Remember that possessions have a prolonged lifespan with depreciating value and experiences have a short lifespan but have appreciating value.

written by Jade Janeke, Registered counsellor