Why Experiences, Not Things, Make Us Happier

Rachel - 28 th September 2015

Most people are in the pursuit of happiness. But new research suggests you’re more likely to achieve contentment by spending money on experiences such as art exhibits, outdoor activities or travelling, as opposed to actually buying material objects.

There’s a very logical assumption that most people make when they think about how to spend their money: a physical object will last longer and it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience will. But their assumption could be wrong.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation... 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.” Dr. Thomas Gilovich

Ironically, the fact that a material thing is ever-present works against it. While the novelty from material purchases transforms into normality over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity.

I certainly know this is true from my own travelling adventures, which I look back on as invaluable character-building experiences.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods... Your experiences really are part of you. We also consume experiences directly with other people, and after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.” Dr. Thomas Gilovich

By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator, but this is even more reason for businesses to focus on building irresistible and differentiating experiences for its customers.... I know what I'm spending my money on.

What have you discovered in the pursuit of happiness? Do you agree that adventures like holidays are more important to us than material objects? Join in the conversation with Brand Vista on Twitter or Linkedin, or get in touch with me and let me know what you think.