Some Material Goods *Can* Make You Happier. But Which Ones?

The scientific study of happiness has for years recommended that people use their money to purchase experiences--dinner with friends or a vacation with a loved one--rather than material goods.

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The scientific study of happiness has for years recommended that people use their money to purchase experiences--dinner with friends or a vacation with a loved one--rather than material goods. The pleasure we gain from doing something, studies have shown, is greater and longer lasting than the pleasure we get from having something. But one class of material goods can provide happiness: those that facilitate having experiences, such as electronics, a musical instrument, and sporting gear. Psychologists Darwin A. Guevarra and Ryan T. Howell argue that past studies have ignored this class of material good.

Wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil explains in his Big Think Mentor interview how the act of doing is so essential to our wellbeing:

What's the Big Idea?

Experiences are thought to be more satisfying than objects because they help fulfill deep psychological needs like autonomy, competence, and relatedness. "Talking to friends, mastering a skill, expressing oneself through art or writing—all of these provide a measure of fulfillment that merely owning a thing cannot. Experiential goods fit in under this framework because they likewise can satisfy those same psychological needs." A musical instrument makes people happiest because it provides a skill to learn, allows for self-expression, and encourages creative collaboration with others. 

Read more at the Atlantic

Photo credit: Shutterstock

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