The Modern Pursuit of Happiness

According to research, you’re allotting too much of your budget toward stuff, and not enough on experiences. If you’ve traveled anywhere, you know the old adage: Travel is the only thing you can buy that makes you richer. Things, however, cannot. And now, new research backs up that claim.

A psychology professor at Cornell University who’s been studying the question of money and happiness for more than two decades recently noted one of the biggest enemies of happiness is “adaptation.” Dr. Thomas Gilovich explained, “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

His findings, outlined for Fast Company, are part of a series of studies feeding into the Easterlin paradox. The paradox found money only buys happiness up to a point; over time, the satisfaction you feel about a thing goes down; satisfaction for an experience, however, only went up.

Experiences, Gilovich noted, are shared with other people, which makes them more than worth their weight in emotional value. “After they’re gone,” he shared, “they’re part of the stories that we tell to one another.” But the research has lasting implications that could disrupt more than just your budgeting plans.

“By shifting the investments that societies make and the policies they pursue,” Gilovich and his coauthor, Amit Kumar, concluded, “they can steer large populations to the kinds of experiential pursuits that promote greater happiness.” Wouldn’t that be a story worth sharing?

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