It’s official: Experiences make people happier than possessions. Okay, not really, but it is the conclusion taken from a recent psychology study as reported in this CNN Health article:
The study looked at 154 people enrolled at San Francisco State University, with an average age of about 25. Participants answered questions about a recent purchase — either material or experiential — they personally made in the last three months with the intention of making themselves happy. While most people were generally happy with the purchase regardless of what it was, those who wrote about experiences tended to show a higher satisfaction at the time and after the experience had passed.
This would suggest that in general, experiential purchases such as eating out, watching a musical, or traveling would produce greater happiness than material purchases. I wouldn’t say this qualifies as a landmark study, as it only surveyed 154 young Californian students (not exactly a large and diverse sample size). However, it should encourage us to look back on our own past purchases and consider carefully which ones had the most value to us. Prioritizing is the first step to spending consciously and cutting out the excess purchases.
A related note is that the researcher also stated that people adapt to a new purchase in six to eight weeks, up to a maximum of three months. That means the initial pleasure we get from a new possession generally fades in a matter of months. That darn hedonic treadmill again.
Hey, doesn’t this just about coincide with Apple’s product cycle? Just in time after the buzz from your new iToy starts to fade, there is another iToy 5G+ to make you happy again. Here’s a quote straight from a recent BusinessWeek article about why Apple is still going strong:
“For many people in this economy, Apple is what makes them happy,” said Shaw Wu, a senior analyst with Kaufman Brothers LP in San Francisco. “Its products make their lives easier and provide some entertainment, at a time when people don’t feel good about a lot of other things in their lives. It sounds silly, but it’s not that far from the truth.”
But again, perhaps buying some happiness every six months is fine, as long as it fits your financial priorities.