What’s the key to happiness? It’s something we’ve all wondered about .
But knowing where to start finding that happiness isn’t always easy.
Ads often encourage people to chase happiness through material things, like tech contraptions, autoes, and clothes — but can you really buy happiness?
Well, according to Amit Kumar , a social psychologist who surveys happiness and spending habits, you can actually give your happiness a serious boost by spending your money on meaningful moments .
Kumar is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and has published several analyzes on the gratification people get from their purchases. He and his colleagues have compared experiential buys like a plane ticket for a vacation to material buys like electronics.
Kumar says they found that “people derive more satisfaction from experiential buys like vacations than they do from material buys like dres, jewelry, furniture, electronic gadgets, and so on.”
So if you’re considering attending a present, visiting a new country, or taking a road journey, you might want to start packing .
According to Kumar, it’s not necessarily the buy itself that stimulates you happy — it’s the memorable experiences that buy leads to. In other words, your journey or outing will likely lead you to experience new and exciting things that you might remember forever.
And sometimes, what attains that experience memorable is the people you fulfill along the way and the unexpected connects you make with them.
It’s not like you need a big, dramatic moment to make this kind of connection. The moments of connect can be as simple as opening the door for a stranger, or offering a mint after enjoying a coffee with that long-lost classmate you ran into arbitrarily while exploring a new city. Maybe, on your escapades, you’ll satisfy a waitress who goes above and beyond for her customers; or perhaps you’ll strike up a dialogue with person in line to see that concert you’ve been waiting for all year. Maybe you’ll grab lunch with those hikers who cautioned you about a bear up ahead on the nature road.
Whatever these small moments are, you’ll be talking about them later, telling coworkers, dates, and new friends about that time a road journey resulted you to someone you might have never gratified otherwise.
And when you talk about its own experience afterwards, it lives on — and so do the impressions of happiness you’ve derived from it.
Jesse Walker, who co-authored a study with Kumar, tells, “One-time experiences tend to grow sweeter in memory as period passes. Even a vacation that runs terribly incorrect in every style often becomes a fond memory.”
So perhaps, someday, you’ll even chuckle about the road trip with your partner that got you horribly lost and spending the night in that scary hotel you swear was haunted.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to trench material buys wholly to find happiness — the key is to find some balance. Rather than get pulled wholly into the world of material things, Kumar says, you can put some of your spending money toward experiences, too.
You may even be able to get both at once: For instance, a cell phone with a great camera can give you mementoes like photos and videos of good times shared with friends and loved ones.
So look out for opportunities for those small moments of connection — they can carry a wealth of happiness.
Which means that procuring the key to happiness is much simpler than many people guess. It’s not about having the right material possessions to induce you feel fulfilled. It’s more about life’s little moments — sharing an experience and making a connection that leaves you with meaningful, happy memories.
While that may not be your only source of happiness, it’s a great start to help you combat loneliness and find the exhilaration you seek.
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