The Behavior That Can Improve Your Gratitude and Generosity
One of the bigger revelations from social psychology in the last decade has been about happiness and money.
People that spend more money on trips, vacations, or concerts are generally happier and have higher life satisfaction than people who like to buy things like cars, jewelry, or clothes. Buying experiences trumps buying materialistic goods.
Spending money on yourself isn’t a bad thing. But if happiness is your goal you’re better off making memories that will stick with you.
If you ever wondered why, a new study may give us some insight.
Experiences Make You Grateful
New research from Cornell conducted a number of different experiments to get to the bottom of the “experiences make us happier” phenomenon.
What did they find?
That opting for a vacation instead of a new piece of jewelry causes us to be more grateful.
In one experiment, they analyzed over 1,200 different online reviews. Half of them were for purchases like clothes or furniture and the other half were for experiential purchases like meals at a restaurant or a stay at a hotel.
They found that people who paid for an experience were more likely to spontaneously mention being grateful for the purchase.
Thomas Gilovich, who was a part of the research, commented:
People say positive things about the stuff they bought, but they don’t usually express gratitude for it – or they don’t express it as often as they do for their experiences.
The researchers believe the reason people experience more gratitude is because possessions may cause more social comparison between other people. In contrast, experiences can make a person appreciate the circumstances of their own life.
But there was another interesting advantage for those who prefer to spend money on experiences.
Buying Experiences Increases Altruistic Behavior
Taking a deeper look, the researchers took the study a bit further.
They had participants think about an experience they had payed for, while others thought about a thing they had bought. They then had them play an economic game to see if it had an effect on their behavior.
They found that people who remembered an experience were more generous towards others, than compared to those who purchased something material.
So it’s more than just one person that can benefit. Amit Kumar was involved with the research and says:
…it suggests that the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well.
It also adds to other evidence that shows how gratitude can make us better human beings.
A Recipe For Happiness
This study fits in nicely with other research on happiness. Studies have revealed that experiences generate more happiness and life satisfaction than things. But now we have a clue as to why.
Gratitude and small acts of kindness have both been shown to boost happiness. And they do it on an individual basis.
Since both of these behaviors are fostered through the purchase of experiences, it seems we should be placing extra emphasis on the memories we create instead of the possessions we collect.