A new study has found that people express more gratitude about events and experiences than they do about owning material things – and that this behaviour is actively making us better people. In other words, go forth and spend all your money on travel!
There are numerous reasons we should be practicing gratitude; the most apparent being that regularly recounting what you’re grateful for can boost serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters that make you happy. It’s the ultimate mood boost, but it’s something we often forget to do.[related_articles]69296,67724[related_articles]
Now there’s a great reason to master the attitude of gratitude: according to Dr Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University and co-author on a new study about gratitude, people are more inclined to comment on their feelings of gratitude when they reflected on the trips they took or meals they ate than when they reflected on gadgets, furniture or clothes they bought.
“Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new,” Dr Gilovich says. “You might say, ‘This new couch is cool’, but you’re less likely to say, ‘I’m so grateful for that set of shelves’. But when you come home from a vacation, you are likely to say, ‘I feel so blessed I got to go’,” he explains. “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 study looked at 1200 online customer reviews. Half of the purchases were things you do (a meal at a restaurant, a broadway show or a holiday) and the other half were things you have (like clothes and furniture). Not surprisingly, reviewers were far more likely to express gratitude for the former rather than the latter.
Co-author Jesse Walker explains that experience purchases bring about more gratitude simply because they don’t trigger as many comparisons as material possessions do. Experiences allow us to appreciate our own circumstances rather than comparing ourselves to someone else’s.
Similarly, participants said that purchasing experiences made them happier than when they purchased material goods simply because it represented money well spent.
The researchers also found that thinking about experiences leads to more subsequent altruistic behaviour than thinking about possessions. Basically, being #blessed is making us selfless.
They found that participants who contemplated a significant experiential purchase behaved more generously towards anonymous others in an economic game that asked them to share $10 with strangers, compared to those who contemplated a significant material purchase.
“In addition to enhancing gratitude, experiential consumption may also increase the likelihood that people will co-operate and show kindness to each other,” explains Thomas. “It thus appears that shifting spending toward experiential consumption can improve people’s everyday lives as well as the lives of those around them.”
This all-but confirms that the key to living a happy life is through experiences rather than things. And it’s good to remember that “experiential purchases” aren’t limited to big overseas trips that only the privileged can afford – it also accounts for cheaper weekends away or visiting an art gallery. So treat yourself and spend all your money on travelling – you’re a better person for it.
H/T: Travel + Leisure
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