Buy Experiences, Not Things… Because Reasons. Science Reasons.

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Ok, I’m just going to come out and say it… I am happy.

It started quite a few years ago, 1985 to be exact. But it got bad, really, really bad about 8 years ago.

Sometimes, while walking alone through the forest, or even down a regular street, I’ll just smile. For no apparent reason. Sometimes other people catch me doing it… it’s embarrassing.

Other days, I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and just giggle. Like wtf?

The worst is when I breakout in a fit of roaring laughter. That’s when people really take notice. There’s no hiding it then.

 It’s like a bad case of the Friday’s… every single day.

I can’t blame my husband, house or kids… because I don’t have any of those things.

Nor can I blame my massive Instagram following or the 10,000 likes I got on my last post… because that doesn’t exist and that isn’t true.

I can’t blame my 4,367 perfectly posed, self-timed, aren’t-supposed-to-look-like-selfies-but-are-totally-selfies selfies. Because, well, I didn’t take them.

And I can’t even blame my brand new Mercedes G-Wagon because I don’t own one.

So then what is it? I was starting to think I’d be happy for the rest of my life. Then I read this…

Experiences, Not Things, Bring People More Happiness.


It’s science people.

The notion that experiential purchases provide more enduring happiness than material purchases has long been the domain of Cornell psychology prof, Thomas Gilovich. His findings were recently published in the Journal of Psychological Science in 2014. Gilovich and his colleagues looked specifically at anticipation as a driver of happiness and that the benefit of spending money on an experience actually accrues long before and after a purchase is made.

While “living in the moment” 100% of the time is the best way to achieve enduring happiness, it’s not all that plausible. So, the next best thing is living in anticipation of an experience – some moment in the future.

So experiences like trips, concerts, movies, etc. trump material purchases because the good vibes from buying them start way before your credit card is swiped and linger afterwards, sometimes forever.

On the flip side, when you must wait for a material possession, you often feel anxious and impatient.

Just imagine you’re waiting for an upcoming trip to Maui…

Now imagine you’re waiting for your pre-ordered iPhone 6S to arrive.

See the difference? Case in point.

Gilovich has also proven that people are less likely to measure the value of their experiences by comparing them to those of others.

Did you have more fun on your ski trip to Whistler than Dan had on his fishing trip to Vancouver Island? Who knows and who the F cares? You’re both happy as clams. 

Yet, thanks to our culture of comparison, chances are you’d feel a bit of a pang in your ego if Dan rode his new Bugatti to the Island, while you took the trip in a 1990 van. Catch my drift? (Speak for yourself, #vanlife for life)

And if you plan on making the argument that material possessions last longer and therefore provide more enjoyment overtime, whereas an experience, like a vacation, is over and gone in no time flat… I’m going to stop you right there.

Because Science.

The truth is, “most of us have a pretty intense capacity for tolerance, or hedonic adaptation, where we stop appreciating things to which we’re constantly exposed. iPhones, clothes, couches, et cetera, just become background. They deteriorate or become obsolete. It’s the fleetingness of experiential purchases that endears us to them. Either they’re not around long enough to become imperfect, or they are imperfect, but our memories and stories of them get sweet with time. In fact, even a bad experience becomes a great story.”

Aha. Well that explains everything… I finally knew the culprit of my chronic happiness.

Hello, my name is Alex and I am an experience junkie…


A sand-in-my-toes, wind-in-my-hair, sun-on-my-face experience junkie… and I love every single second of it.

So, in light of this eye-opening evidence, I put together my 4 shortcuts for finding happiness, starting TODAY! Take em, leave em, hate em, or love em. It’s just science, after all. Like global warming! And not everyone believes in that *face palm*.

1) Put Down Your Phone


Seriously people. This is a problem. If you’re out for dinner, visiting with friends, or spending a quiet night at home instantly Instagram that shit PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN and enjoy the moment. Have incredible conversations, tell stories of experiences gone wrong or get lost in a good book. Just because living in the moment isn’t possible 100% of the time, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t live in the moment as much as humanly possible.

2) Be REAL


Social media is out of control these days. What was once used to keep in touch with old friends or upload albums of less-than-perfect photos to share with your family back home, is now used as a platform for “perfect”. Everyone knows your skin doesn’t glow like that. Everyone knows that “candid” photo actually took 120 tries to look perfectly unplanned. Everyone knows you don’t only eat #Paleo. And hey, I’ve been guilty of this too. So how about we all just be real, k?

3) Plan An Adventure


Science proves it. Anticipation trumps instant gratification. Plan a fun trip, hike, spa day, coffee date, or adventure of any sort. While everyone knows the best adventures have no room for phones (some of my most memorable experience have absolutely NO photographic evidence… oh, the horror!), if you do manage to snap an awesome photograph, definitely post it on Instagram ;).

4) This Christmas, Gift Experiences!


Happiness is contagious. So pass it on to those you love the most! Then start a support group full of experience junkies 😉 Rather than gifting material possessions this Christmas, gift experiences! They will create memories that last a lifetime. Nothing to carry, nothing to clean, nothing to store, move or pack. Put good ol’ fashioned endorphins under the tree this year.


What’s your most memorable experience? What fun adventures do you have planned this year? Leave your comments below!


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