3 things to put on your list if you want to “buy” happiness

3 things to put on your list if you want to “buy” happiness

via Psychology Today by Wendy Patrick

Of course, the best things in life are free.  Prioritizing faith, family, and friends; savoring health over wealth.

But if you are going to spend money, can you buy happiness? This is an evergreen question answered differently depending on who you ask.  There is agreement, however, regarding the fact that it depends on what you buy.  Here are three ideas for your happiness shopping list.

1. Buying Well Being: The Priceless Expense of Shared Experience

Think about the last time you experienced something that brought you great pleasure.  Chances are, you did not do it alone.

In a study entitled “Buying well-being,” (2018), researchers Aknin et al. compared spending money on products versus experiences.[i]  In order to maximize happiness, they suggest purchasing experiences, not possessions.  They note that experiential purchases are more social, often involving family and friends, which fulfill the basic psychological need to belong.  Material acquisitions, in contrast, tend to be solitary endeavors.

Aknin et al. also point out that purchasing experiences is more central to our identity than purchasing objects, and life stories are more likely to include experiences than material possessions.  This makes sense when you think about the types of posts you read on Facebook.  Aknin et al. suggest that although research shows that posting information about purchases increases happiness, sharing information about experiences may provide even greater gains.

Yet not all experiences are created equal. Some can be both exceptional and isolating—if no one can relate to you. Have you ever seen or experienced something extraordinary, perhaps a stunning view or an excellent meal, and wished you could have shared it with someone you love? This common sentiment corroborates the findings that the most enjoyable experiences are those that can be shared.

Aknin et al. cited examples from prior research noting that although exceptional experiences, such as a movie screening with a favorite celebrity, might be more enjoyable than routine daily events, they might have social costs.  Most people cannot relate to the experience, reducing opportunities for subsequent conversation, which can decrease post-experience well-being.  Shared social activities appear to be more enjoyable than extraordinary adventures experienced alone…

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