A trip to an adventure park or a new MP3 player? A meal at a restaurant or a new pair of jeans? A smart new computer or a holiday? What would you choose?
Well, a study carried out in the USA by the University of Colorado has found that people are happier if they spend money on life experiences rather than material possessions. Through a series of surveys and experiments over several years, researchers found that people from various social groups were happier when they spent money on doing things, rather than buying things.
One of the reasons suggested for this in the study is that experiences are more open to positive interpretations. For example, imagine you go on a holiday and the weather or accommodation is not very good. Maybe you feel disappointed at the time, but later on, perhaps you will change your view and start to think of the positive aspects of the experience – the new food you tried or the new places that you saw. With material things you cannot reinterpret them in this way because they are what they are, their qualities do not change.
Another possible reason why experiences bring more joy than material goods is that experiences also help us build up better social relationships. We tend to do things with other people and we often share stories about the things we have done, so there is a social aspect to experiences that material possessions just do not have. And social success is closely associated with happiness.