It may feel bad shelling out money for your dream traveling adventure, but recent science says there’s really nothing better you could be spending it on—if you’re looking for long-term happiness and well-being, that is.
Sure, buying some clothes or the newest tech might bring you short-term joy, but research from Cornell University has shown that happiness is only truly achievable through experiences (like journeys, visits, trips). FastCo.Exist explores the research of Cornell University psychology professor Dr. Thomas Gilovich:
“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. “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.”
So rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, Gilovich suggests you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling.
“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.”
Experiences also have the ability to connect us in ways material possessions simply can’t. We do not deeply bond over having the same car or same cell phone as someone else. Similar or shared experiences, on the other hand, open up many doors for conversation and friendship. On this note, FastCo.Exist adds:
You’re much more likely to feel connected to someone you took a vacation with in Bogotá than someone who also happens to have bought a 4K TV.
“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.”
And even if someone wasn’t with you when you had a particular experience, you’re much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Appalachian Trail or seeing the same show than you are over both owning Fitbits.
Gilovich’s research has implications for individuals who want to maximize their happiness return on their financial investments, for employers who want to have a happier workforce, and policy-makers who want to have a happy citizenry.
So instead of buying that new TV or a new couch, pay a bit more and take that trip you’ve been dreaming of. You’ll be happier and healthier in the long run, and the memories will last a lifetime!
Feature image courtesy of Patrick Down via Flickr
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