Why Experiences make us Happier than Things

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When will we wake up and recognise that more stuff doesn’t equal more happiness?

A philosophical paper written in 2003 by two psychologists, Thomas Gilovich and Leaf Van Boven supports this claim. It is called ‘To Do or To Have, That Is the Question‘. Some people would argue that you’re buying the wrong stuff if you think experiences trump material goods.

Using social science as the basis of their paper, these researchers proved that if you continue to focus your spending on material goods rather than experience
s,  you’re consciously deciding not to be happier.

Here are 5 reasons why experiences make us happier than things and contribute to helping us live a fulfilling life:

1) ‘Hedonic adaptation’ – We get bored of material objects quickly and we don’t with experiences. We buy a new phone, car, or toy and are amused and excited by it for the first few days or weeks and then this fizzles out as we become used to it.

2) ‘Positive reinterpretation’ – If you purchase a material good that you later discover you are unhappy with, you declare it a bad decision and cannot resolve the problem. When you have a bad experience however, simply reliving your story after some time can bring humor and a fresh perspective to the events.


3) Experiences are more difficult to compare than material goods – It’s easy to compare your average Toyota sedan with your neighbour’s luxury Audi. But how do you compare two different vacations? If your neighbour stays at a five star resort in the Maldives and experiences fine dining every day, they may appear to be having a swanky holiday. What if you go on a backpacking trip and learn new skills? Just because you have an abundance of money, doesn’t mean you are having a better time than someone who’s trip costs half the amount of yours.

4) Experiences create our identity more than material objects. Having experiences such as climbing a mountain, learning how to fish, or visiting an Italian olive grove can help enrich and expand your mind. It can also help to change the way you look at things, the world, and ultimately your self.

5) Experiences bring us closer to people. Material objects often separate us from people. Research exists that tells us we favour listening to people talk about experiences, as opposed to material goods. Experiences bring you closer to people and make you happier.

Why not shift from making statements about who we are from our material possessions and more about our experiences?

Experience and LIVE in the moment:

Research has also shown that if you Instagram shots of your food, you enjoy your food less. We can all relate to the idea that if you’re focusing on what other people think about you, you’re not going to have as good of a time.

We are turning experiences into materialistic things with photos and social media postings.

We all want to live a fulfilling life but we are being suffocated by a society of materialism and are facing a clutter crisis.

You don’t need to be wealthy or spend a whole lot of money to have a great time and experience. Even doing something as simple as going for a stroll with friends, being surrounded by nature, and putting less value on material goods can begin shifting your awareness.

About the author

Kim Logan