“Money can’t buy me love,” so the oldie goes, and most people would agree that happiness isn’t to be found in possessions or their pursuit. We all love to decry materialism—while secretly coveting the latest stuff! When it comes to measuring what makes us happy, psychologists have shown that the more materialistic a person is, the more likely she or he is to experience dissatisfaction with life and suffer depression, among other maladies. But there is “good news for materialists”!
Researchers have found that “experiential products”—things that engage your senses, or that facilitate experiences—do in fact contribute to personal happiness. Whether the thing is a guitar, some hiking gear, a tennis racket, or even a book or video game, if it provides, or enables you to gain, skills or knowledge or a valuable social experience, it can enhance your happiness. It’s the connection to experience that is key: you experience making music, exploring the outdoors, playing a sport, or engaging with an author’s mind or a game designer’s virtual world.
Experiences can improve over time through our memories; they don’t rust or fade. We are less likely to compare our experiences with those of others than we are to compare our material things, and are thus less likely to feel dissatisfaction with them. While a piece of jewelry or an article of clothing might involve a level of personal expression, still it is just something to be worn, and its pleasures are often fleeting. Finally, experiences are typically more social, and such sharing with others usually adds to well-being.
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- How the Right Type of Materialism Can Make You Happy
In a “consumer society” such as ours, one may be tempted to think: I shop; therefore I am. Not so.
(Source: PsyBlog, July 29, 2014)
- Materialism May Not Be All Bad, If You Purchase “Experiential” Items
This article examines the focus on the experiential versus the merely materialistic.
(Source: Lifehacker, July 31, 2014)
- What Makes People Happier—Objects or Experiences?
This article provides a good overview of the comparison between materialism and experience.
(Source: HowStuffWorks.com; accessed August 5, 2014)
- But Will It Make You Happy?
This article provides a more in-depth reflection on the question of materialism and happiness.
(Source: New York Times, August 7, 2010)