Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Things vs Experiences: What Makes Us Happier?

I stumbled across this great article on happiness a month ago. Essentially it talks about how if you have the choice between buying a pool for your backyard or going to Greece for a few weeks, the trip to Greece will make you happier. It doesn't matter that the pool could last you al lifetime. Experiences almost always trump things when it comes to the pleasure they give us.

This reality has been backed up by research (check out the article “If Money Doesn’t Make You Happy Then You Probably Aren’t Spending It Right.”) for more details. I have been reflecting on this truth a fair amount this summer. If buying stuff doesn't really make me that happy (or at least not that happy for very long) then why am I so enamored with buying, well, stuff?

For myself I believe it is an error of the mind. I have a belief that things (especially new shiny things) will make me happy. A new car is better then an old one (or none at all). Yet whenever we get rid of the stuff in our house I find myself relaxing a little more and feeling a little more content. I don't think it's the stuff itself that is the problem, I think it's the beliefs about the stuff that hurt us.

My Son Riker always would like to buy more toys. I estimate he has about 4 or 5 times as much toys as I had when I was young. But I don't think he is any happier then I was. When we get older the toys we want just get bigger and more expensive. How many of us are still stuck in that earlier mindset - thinking that if we just buy the right stuff we'll be happy?

So how does one break the power of the idea? I think by challenging it. Doing an experiment to see if it is true. Let me know if you've done such a thing . . .

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