Are you trying to decide between a new bike, or a boat, or a bike or a maybe a family vacation? Psychological research suggests experiences make people happier than possessions. Ryan Howell, Associate Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University, found that people KNOW life experiences will make them happier, but they choose to spend their money on material items because they think they are of greater value.
Dr. Howells research shows we have a hard time estimating the economic value we would place on memories compared to knowing we bought a car for $20,000. One of Dr. Howell’s experiments surveyed people before and after they bought something. Before making the purchase, the participants said they were aware that a life experience would bring them more happiness, but that it would make more sense financially to buy the material item. But their opinions changed after making the purchase, researchers found. Post-purchases, the participants said that not only would happiness be greater with a life experience, but also that the life experience was a better value than the material item.
Dr. Leaf Van Boven, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado at Boulder has discovered three possible reasons why life experiences make people happier than material purchases.
Experiential purchases are more open to positive reinterpretations. “If you go on a hiking trip and the weather is terrible, you might not view it as a pleasurable experience in the here and now. Instead, you may view it as a challenge and over time remember the positive aspects of the experience more than the negative aspects. With material things, you can’t do this, because they are what they are,” said Van Boven.
Experiential purchases are a more meaningful part of a person’s identity. Van Boven says, “Our culture values accomplishing goals. Experiences tend to be associated more with deeper personal meanings than possessions.”
Experiential purchases contribute more to successful social relationships. “Experiences foster relationships because you tend to do things with other people, so there is a social aspect to it,” says Van Boven. And the stories we share about the experiences are much more fun to talk about than material possessions.
As nice as your new car or bike is, it’s not going to make you feel alive. Most psychologists who study the phenomenon say people adapt to a new purchase in six to eight weeks, up to a maximum of three months.
To get you thinking, here are ten ways to spend on experiences here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Or better yet, come and visit.
- Paddleboard at your favorite lake. We love paddle boarding at Bryant Lake Regional Park
- Watch the Fly Over America Movie at the Mall of America when you need a little AC
- Play Kan Jam at your favorite park
- Attend the showing of the National Parks Adventure at your Imax Theater on a rainy day
- Visit a new brewery. High on our list is Surly Brewery
- Play Bocce ball at your favorite park
- Get in the car and drive…anywhere to adventure
- 10% of your happiness is your circumstances
- 50% genetic background
- 40% of your happiness is determined by your choices like creating experiences.
Don’t be fooled into thinking stuff makes you happy. The cycle of materialistic pursuits is disappointing and exhausting and can make you unhappier. I challenge you to create ten experiences this summer. Remember you have one life to live, just imagine it was one you loved. Remember you own 40%.
Not too late to join the Best Summer of Your Life Club. You have one life to live, just imagine it was one you loved! We want to hear the ways you are going to spend your summer.