Research has long connected happiness to spending money on experiences over things. For example, escaping stress during a spa day trumps a new handbag when it comes to contentment.
One reason for this is that people tend to compare possessions, but not experiences, according to a Cornell University study.
Think about getting a new car. Maybe you scored a Mazda, but then your neighbor gets a Lexus, and you feel like it’s way cooler than yours. “God, life would be better with a Lexus,” you think. But hey, cars are cars! They don’t change how you feel on the inside.
Another reason experiences are more conducive to happiness is that people think about them more than possessions.
Experiences grow richer over time, giving you warm memories to reminisce over. Stuff, meanwhile, gets scratched and old. Then, it drives you crazy until you buy new stuff to replace it.
So buy experiences not things, right? Well, the real picture is more complex.
What can I buy to make me happy?
Some material possessions can make you happier — namely those that give you experiences, according to researchers at San Francisco State University.
To decide if an item will make you happier, consider what possibilities it brings to your life.
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Here’s a sampling of things that could improve your quality of life:
Learning how to play a guitar, adding personal flavor to favorite songs or writing your own, jamming with some new friends, or letting out some steam while strumming and singing Tom Petty at the top of your lungs feels good.
Not interested in strings? How about a piano, keyboard or drum set?In this case, it’s not the musical instrument you’re buying; it’s the experience of music.
“Nature is food for the soul,” says Richard Ryan, a researcher at the University of Rochester. Ryan worked on research that found spending just 20 minutes outside makes people feel more alive, elevating vitality and energy levels.
The experience of kayaking — or paddle boarding, canoeing, or surfing — is yet another experience that affords opportunities to get social or enjoy quality alone time. Just you, the rippling water, birds and sunshine.
Happiness-inducing purchases need not be expensive. Heck, if you go to the library, this one could even be free.
Reading a book brings hours of entertainment. It broadens your mind to new ideas and experiences, and could give you something to talk about with a new friend.
If you’ve ever had an interest in developing photography skills, a camera could be a wonderful addition to your life.
Searching for photogenic locales could lead you to unexplored city blocks, distant mountain trails, and other new places where you might not have otherwise ventured.
Along the way, you’ll learn to see things in a new, artistic, light.
Sometimes, there’s nothing better than cruising down the road on a bike, listening to the wind blow by or to a good song on your iPhone.
Breathing in fresh air while exercising — does it get any better? You could even ride a bike instead of drive to nearby places .
Double the pleasure by asking a friend to tag along. Happy riding!
What purchases have you made that fill your heart with joy? Share in the comments below!
What’s your favorite happiness-inducing purchase? How did it improve your life?