Suiteness BlogSpend On Experiences For A Happier LifeWritten by Divya MulanjurPublished January 20, 2016

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A quick Twitter search on #NewYearResolution will show you that everyone just wants to be happy (obviously). Some want to exercise more, a lot of people want to travel more, cook better, be happier… so what is the answer to being happier and staying that way?

Turns out, the pursuit of happiness leads to meaningful experiences. According to a study performed by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying how money and happiness are interrelated for decades, adaptation is one of the enemies to happiness. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed, but only for a little while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.” It is no longer a ‘waste of money’ to indulge in experiences rather than buy a shiny new car. His research proves that people tend to be happier spending time and money on positive experiences than buying new things. So, you’d be happier spending money on a beach vacation in Miami rather than buying a new phone or a designer handbag.

One might argue that a material possession stays forever unlike a night out in Las Vegas, so the happiness associated with buying it should be greater and last longer. Ironically though, excitement of a physical object dies down as it gets older and becomes part of everyday life. The excitement you felt during your family vacation to New York City as a kid however, lasts longer and makes you happier with every retelling.

Another reason stated in the study is that the connection we feel to those who have gone through the same experience is stronger than the connection we feel to those who have made the same material purchase. You’re more likely to bond with someone who has been on a vacation to the same place you went to last year than with someone who owns an Apple watch.

Humans are highly social and experiences bring enduring satisfaction and is self-reinforcing because they deeply connect us to others.

People today are realizing the true source of happiness and going in search of it. According to a research conducted by Harris and sponsored by Eventbrite on millennials in the U.S., the experience economy is thriving as millennials are increasingly spending more on experiences than ‘things’. The study indicates that more than 3 in 4 (78%) millennials in the U.S. would choose to invest in a desirable experience over buying something they want. Not surprisingly, nearly 8 in 10 (77%) say some of their best memories are that of a live experience they participated in and that 69% believe being part of an experience make them more connected to other people, and the world.

Travel is a huge part of this new trend of experiential living. Millennials are travelling more, splurging on cultural immersion and indulging in exploring new gastronomical routes. According to travel writer Daniel Baylis (who, in 2011, spent the year traveling the world solo) “Travel is a solid investment. I have never looked back on a trip with regret. Each time I wander through foreign lands, or simply walk down a street in my own hometown that I’ve never walked before, I have no choice but to experience a minor expansion.”

But what good is the experience if it isn’t exciting and better every time?  “Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods,” says Gilovich. “You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

It only makes sense to make these experiences count.

So for those of you who have vowed to make 2016 happier by travelling, do travel, but travel better. Yes, deli sandwiches and living in hostels are great to save money while traveling. But not as culturally or socially enriching as exploring the local cuisine and staying comfortably so that you get a much-needed good night’s sleep. You’ve worked hard, day and night for that much deserved vacation, it is only fair that you get the best possible experience. The next time you’re vacationing with your family, you shouldn’t have to worry about sharing your (vacation rental) bathroom with a stranger. Be focused on giving yourself and your family a wonderful experience and a story that will last a lifetime.

“As a society, shouldn’t we be making experiences easier for people to have?” asks Gilovich.


Based on an article from Co.Exist.