According to an article in The Atlantic, an abundance psychology research has shown that experiences bring more joy to people than do possessions. Furthermore – apparently spending money on future experiences rather than immediate things also provides more enduring happiness. Studies specifically looked at anticipation as a potential driver. They wanted to know whether happiness occurred while waiting for a planned experience and after the experience was completed – and yes, that appears to be true.
Basically if you can’t enjoy an experience right now, the mere anticipation of the
upcoming event contributes to happiness. Experiential purchases such as travel, movies, concerts and more generate more satisfaction than material purchases. This can be because just the act of buying the future experience starts the “happy vibes” going before you actually arrive at the destination.
Furthermore, just looking forward to an experience creates more happiness and excitement than waiting for a desired material “thing” to arrive. Actually waiting for something you order to arrive is more likely to conjure up impatience rather than anticipation. An example provided compared looking forward to a planned vacation versus waiting for your pre-ordered iPhone to arrive in the mail — even by two day delivery.
Perhaps this is somewhat counter-intuitive as experiences such as vacations coming go; but new furniture for example, can last for a long time. On the flip-side, memories and stories can recall comforting emotions, while items deteriorate, break, or become obsolete. Furthermore, others much prefer hearing about your stories and adventures rather than your possessions.
This theory was further demonstrated as the moods of people waiting in long lines were noted to be considerably better when waiting to purchase concert tickets or a new dining experience versus buying products before Christmas for example.
Perhaps this all comes down to how social interaction is one of the most important determinants of happiness which ultimately comes from the pursuit of meaning.
People tend to imagine all sorts of possibilities of what an experience might be whereas purchasing an item has many limitations – including impulse buying which destroys all ability to savor the anticipation.
The authors furthered this concept by stating “…well-being can be advanced by providing infrastructure that affords experiences, such as parks, trails, and beaches…” Hope is that such infrastructure can provide both happy anticipation and the actual experience of enjoying it.
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