Why experiences make us happier than things do

I love it when science corroborates what I believe to be true, so I really enjoyed reading an article in Fast Company about the work of Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who studies things like happiness and money, and how the two relate. Because money often comes up among would-be adventurers as something that’s stopping them, I figured it would be useful to tell you why many of our assumptions about how that’s gonna work out are completely out to lunch.

Here’s the thing: We think if we buy that new living room sofa, for example, or some other thing that’s going to be with us for good long while, that will make us happier than something transient, such as an adventure. It’ll last longer than an experience, so it will give us more years of pleasure. Right?

More than 10 years on, this adventure still has me cranked.

More than 10 years on, this adventure still has me cranked.

Wrong, as it turns out. Initially, we’re as cranked about that living room sofa as we are about our swimming with dolphins adventure – or sharks, or whatever. But over time, the sofa becomes part of the background of our lives, whereas the adventure becomes part of how we see ourselves and who we are. Which makes us happier. And, unlike staring more often at the sofa, which does nothing to make it more exciting,  the more often we drag our adventure memory out and look at it, our happiness about having done it grows.

As the good doctor says:

“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.”

Yet another good reason to go for adventure. Whether it’s taking up ballroom dancing, or learning to sail, or trekking across the Antarctic, that sucker’s gonna be giving you smiles for ages.

For the whole article in Fast Company go here http://bit.ly/1CoOIIx

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