Experiences Buy more Happiness than Things
There is no doubt that money impacts short-term happiness in that we have control over how we spend our time. If you have enough money to quit work while kids are young that might impact your happiness for the time being. If you have enough money to change careers and do what you love, that can impact money. And yet, there are a number of interesting studies that show how and what we spend our money on directly makes us happy.
A team of Harvard researches surveyed people on their spending habits and found that spending money on others does boost happiness whereas spending money on oneself does not affect level of happiness.
Then the old Retail Therapy, when you are down – go shopping. Bad moods make more bad decisions and we spend the most when we feel unhappy. No surprise. Let’s take that further, if we want to keep our financial stress low we need to manage our money well. If we are happy, healthy, and joyful we tend to spend less and therefore have more money.
Then there is the choice between the new dress, table or TV and spending on a great vacation – an adventure – a memory that can never be taken away. Our experiences last while our purchases fade away. We relive these memories through stories, writings, photos, books, websites, blogs, and sharing years later about your adventure rafting down the Grand Canyon years later. Carter and Gilovich in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology report that as our income increases (for those with expendable income), buying an experience (i.e. a vacation, a learning event, a play, movie, dining out) provide us with two to three times the level of wellbeing that a material purchase provides.
Rule of thumb, we are less likely to regret buying an experience than a thing. This in turn makes us feel good and not feel regretful, remorseful, or mad at ourselves.
Combining our need for social interaction with our need for social well-being is a great step in increasing your joy in life. Rath and Harter, in their book Well Being, talk further about the risk of dying from heart disease or getting sick is twice as likely for people who have few close relationships. Close relationships affect our health and well-being and even more so if they are in close proximity.
Studies show that people who have a best friend at work are happier. Since you are around people at work – a lot of the time – make an effort to develop good, fun relationships in which you share, support each other, and laugh together.
If you work alone, reach out, get out, network, and engage socially with friends and family during your waking hours. This can include electronic forms of communicating with others through emails, facebook, twitter, and on the phone.
The past few months this need for pure social interaction has become even more evident to me as I work alone much of the time. To counteract this, I have reached out to some woman I like and connect with who are also working alone. Monthly we call each other to just talk, chat, catch up and share. No agenda, no goal, no purpose other than to enjoy each other and share. Albeit this isn’t daily and is virtually, it is something I look forward to and makes me feel good long after our conversation.
In fact, Harter and Arora at Gallup have collected data from over 140,000 Americans and asked people to tell them if they had a great day or a worry/stressful day. They correlated this with the number of hours spent with friends and family including on the phone, emails, and social networking. They discovered that to have a good day, the daily recommended dose of social time is 6 hours per day. The implications are fascinating for increasing your joy in life and decreasing stress. Remember this includes work and home time, in person, electronic, and telephonic interactions
Last month, our ten year old daughter, who is in love with Louis IV and all of his trappings begged us to have a Royal dinner party in which everyone came dressed as royalty, gave themselves royal names, and ate in a royal fashion. Putting her off for longer than we would like to admit, we sat down one day and talked about what this dinner party would be like.
"Royal costumes! Everyone has to come dressed like some royalty. They can be a King, a Prince, a Duke, or a Countess. I am of course, Comtess Zoe-Pascale de Saxe Roux of Languedoc, Rousillion."
Now, being a tween she was also aware of the fact that some of her friends might think she was "uncool" and therefore wanted to invite family friends. At first we tried to dissuade her, but realized she had actually come up with a solution to the problem she felt (operative word, felt) she had which was not to be "uncool."
In her eloquent Franglais, she crafted the Royal invitation and sent it out to a few family friends asking them to RSVP with their titles and come appropriately dressed. To our surprise, all the invitees answered with hysterical messages that asked, "Where should we park the carriage and horses?" "Will there be water for the horses?"