New research suggests we’ve been spending our money in all the wrong places.
Most of us spend a great amount of effort saving up money to buy material objects that will make us “happier”. Like a new iPhone to show off in public.
But how long does that purchase keep you happy? Sure, the initial buy is exhilarating, and maybe it’s exciting for the next week. But what about a month? A year?
The next iPhone model will already be out by then.
How do we ensure longtime happiness?
According to a new study, the secret of happiness can be something as small as camping or a great road trip with friends.
This is because the belief that a one-off cliff jumping thrill ride only makes you happy in the moment, and a new TV that lasts longer will creating a longer happy period is actually a complete myth.
For the past twenty years, Gilovich, a psychologist and professor at Cornell University, has been studying the correlation between money and happiness.
“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Gilovich. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”
Eventually, that iPhone becomes a part of our normal life and normal becomes boring. Time to start saving for that tablet; bigger screen equals bigger happiness levels, right? Not so much.
Money may buy happiness… but only up to a point.
Gilovich has long studied what is known to economists as the Easterlin Paradox, which states that money can buy happiness, but only to a certain point. People in the wealthiest countries have been documented as less happy than those in evolving countries with slow rising household income.
This is all due to adaptation – when people become comfortable with the amount of money they have, it becomes normal. Again, normal becomes boring and boring leads to unhappiness.
Backpack through the Great North, however, and you may find an enlightening experience to bring up your happy meter.
One study asked people to report their happiness achieved from both material and experiential purchases. At first, both buys ranked the same on the happiness scale, but as time went on, those who experienced something, such as a concert or vacation, reported higher levels of satisfaction.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “We are the sum total of our experiences.”
Secret of Happiness Lies in Our Shared Experiences
Kayaking in Fiji with a partner proves more beneficial than bonding over your new iPads together.
The human connection is stronger in shared experiences and we want to share our stories with those who have experienced the same things.
Even our envy decreases while on vacation. While it’s easy to compare our material purchases to our neighbors, it’s harder to compare whose experience hiking in the Alps is better. This drop in jealousy results in a longer, more fulfilling happiness.