Multiple studies have shown that we not only enjoy purchases of experiences more than material things, but that this pleasure starts in the anticipation leading up to the event – way before the actual experience. It also lingers long after the event is over.
Buying things doesn’t buy happiness for two main reasons:
1. New things get old quickly; we acclimatize to our surroundings very easily
due to something called hedonistic adaptation, so we look for the next novel purchase instead of just enjoying what we already have.
2. Materialistic possessions invite comparisons with our peers which can cause jealousy when friends or rivals upgrade their belongings, leading to a desire to “keep up with the Jones”.
While the joy of a new purchase diminishes within days, it turns out that the happiness of a novel experience can stay with us for the rest of our lives. In fact, even the act of standing in line to buy a ticket to an event has been rated as more pleasant than waiting to buy a material good!
But why is this the case? Well, one major reason lies in the fact that major experiences become a part of our identity, and we enjoy telling the story (which can be done over and over again in the future).
Another lies in the anticipation leading up to the actual event; that’s why standing in line for an event like a movie or amusement park ride is much more fun than standing in line at the grocery store checkout.
Finally, the fleeting nature of experiences actually makes us value them more. Since we know that they will come and go quickly, we create extra emotional attachment to them over our belongings which we take for granted just a few days after acquiring them.
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