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What Makes Us Instantly Happy?

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We are human-beings but so often become human-doings in our modern lifestyle.  Without a doubt, sometimes we also become human-buyings and succumb to desires and pressures to accumulate materialistic possessions.  As common knowledge has always said, spending your money wisely on experiences, rather than items, will make you happier.  New research suggests that if it’s instant gratification you’re looking for, you won’t find it in retail therapy.

Authors of the study to be released in the May 2020 edition of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology seconded the theory that investing in experiences instead of material purchases will make you happier. 

This experiment was conducted via large-scale experiencing sampling methods with two groups of participants.  The two groups consisted of 2,635 adults which either engaged in buying material purchases or experiential experiences.  Their emotional reactions were followed throughout the day with check-in texts from the researchers.

In the material purchase category, purchases were made for furniture, clothing, or jewelry; in the experiential purchase category, participants attended sporting events, restaurants, or other uplifting experiences.  Irrespective of the money they spent, the group which spent money on experiential purchases was happier than the group who had purchased material possessions.

The second part of the study involved a large, separate group of participants.  Over 5,000 people were surveyed about their level of happiness and if they had bought, used, or consumed a material purchase in the last hour; or if they had spent money on an experience.  Similarly, the group that reported the highest levels of happiness had just engaged in an experience.

Happiness in the moment (or instant gratification) was counter-intuitively higher in people who invested in experiences.  The reactions to material possessions in the present moment versus ongoing happiness were analyzed.  As we have all experienced, the buzz of a new item generally fades over time.  However, happiness both in the moment and over time was higher for experiential purchases.

References

Kumar, Amit, et al. “Spending on Doing Promotes More Moment-to-Moment Happiness than Spending on Having.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 88, May 2020, doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2020.103971.

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