7 Reasons You Gain More Happiness from Experiences than Things

I’ve been on the path of art and oil painting for seven years. When people ask, “Why do I do it?” or “Why would you get another degree?” I reflect on several possible answers. However, Fast Company published The 7 Reasons That Science Says You Should Pay for Experience, Not Things by James Wallman, and I think they nailed it.

Here are the reasons you gain more happiness from experiences than things:

1. We see the world through rose-tinted glasses

“Experiences are better than material goods because of something psychologists call ‘positive reinterpretation,” and what you or I would call “looking through rose-tinted glasses.” Experiences typically get reinterpreted as rewarding, or the best parts are recalled. In any new set of experiences or learning a new skill, we tend to see the rosy side to get over the early hurdles. This positive outlook helps us “stick with it” and be persistent, even when the outcome is less than desired.

2. We get bored of stuff easily

Material possessions don’t provide more happiness because of something called “hedonic adaptation.” This happens to anything new – at first it’s exciting, but then we adapt and get used to it. Research shows that hedonic adaptation affects objects far more than experiences. We adapt to them far quicker.” Happiness decays faster over time from an object, rather than an experience. We adapt to the object faster.

3. It’s harder to compare experiences

“Weighing up experiences is far more subjective. Since it’s harder to compare experiences, you’re less likely to worry whether or not you’re making the best choice, less likely to regret your choice afterwards, and less likely to think about the status implications of your choice.” The result? More happiness and satisfaction from your decision making.

more happiness4. The life-changing magic of flow

“Flow is a mental state, first identified by a psychologist called Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, that you get into when you are effortlessly engaged in whatever it is you are doing. No matter what you call it, flow is essential for happiness. When Csikszentmihaly looked closely at the data, he found that teens were happier when they were taking on challenging tasks, like trying to solve a problem or playing sports.”
One conclusion drawn is that “We are less likely to worry about a decision to have a new experience than acquire new objects, because we think less about the status implications of our choice.”

5. To wait (for an experience) is great

“…they found that people found the waiting more pleasant, and they were more excited and happier when they were waiting for an experience.” Booking a vacation and anticipating it can be a great source of pleasure and happiness!

6. Experiences make the man (and the woman)

“Experiences are better than material goods because we are more likely to think of them as contributing to, and part of, who we are.”
Our individual identity is more attached to our experiences in life than the objects we have around us. After five years of art training and education, others are starting to refer to me as a painter and artist.

more happiness7. We’re people people

“…Experiences are more likely to make us happy than material goods, because they bring us closer to other people.” Next time you’re at a reception or party, remember that people would rather hear about your experiences, like a recent vacation, rather than the last new car you bought.

Through the experiences of making art, I have befriended a new circle of friends including artists, gallery owners and instructors. Experiences do bring people together in many positive ways. I’m more convinced than ever that the experience of art making brings more joy than the acquisition of art. Although, I’ve had a good time doing both!


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