Happiness Through Experience?

Money can’t buy love, but can it purchase happiness? While you might be tempted to answer “no,” the more accurate response to that question might be yes – depending on what you spend your money on.

Going Places

This was the opinion of two studies published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. For these reports, the authors examined and reviewed the purchases and related experiences of 7,500 participants, all of whom were adults. Specifically, the authors documented each adult’s levels of happiness before, during and after each of these particular purchases.

Upon this analysis, the research team found that, at least when it came to happiness, not all purchases are equally effective. The participants tended to receive a notable boost in happiness upon buying things related to various experiences, such as travel and outdoor activities. Eating out at restaurants and consuming entertainment products was also included in this category. In contrast, buying clothes and various gadgets was found to be less beneficial to the subjects’ mental well-being.

Smiling on a Budget

The two studies were a collaborative effort between three prestigious universities – Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Texas at Austin. Text messages were used to track the happiness levels of each adult. The authors noted that so-called “experiencers” reported being more content than those who purchased random assortments of products. Furthermore, they also tended to be happier than participants who were reluctant to purchase items.

Even cheap experiences could be more beneficial than expensive gadgets. The researchers found that those who bought pricey laptops in the $2,000 range were less happy than adults enjoying $5 ice cream cones. In light of these findings, study contributor Amit Kumar stated that if people “want to be happier, it might be wise to shift some of [their] consumption away from material goods a bit and more toward experiences—that would likely lead to greater well-being.”

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