As people with a lot of money will tell you, most of that cash ends up being spent on things. You know, things — we're talking fancy shoes, platinum watches, souped-up jet-skis. We are a culture that loves things, and every day we prove it by buying more and more things.
Then the question becomes, what are we buying all these things for? While some people are just trying to have more things than everyone else in their life (I personally have a lot of my personal worth tied up in owning more video games than my roommate), most people would say they're buying things to make themselves happy.
But is being happy enough?
Most of us want to be better people, and the clearest way to be happy — really, truly happy, is to help out others. And it's starting to sound like the quickest way to being a good person is by spending money not on things, but on experiences.
We all want to be good people.Everyone likes to think they're doing the right thing; that their existence and their actions are making things better for everyone. That's so universal that even obviously insane supervillains think this way. (I'm looking at you, Thanos.)
But it's really, really hard!You ever try actually being a good person? It sucks! You can't be mean to anyone or taunt them or push them over in the dirt and laugh at them or anything!
Just basic survival is tough.Listen, when you're like me, all chicken is the Gucci of chicken. Every time I go to the grocery store, I tell myself I'm only going to spend 50 dollars. You know how many times I've actually spent 50 dollars? That's a big fat zero. And that's just when I'm buying groceries, which I don't even like but simply need to survive! Imagine how I am when I go into GameStop!
And don't forget about all the ways you can be taken advantage of while you try to be a good person!
via: ShutterstockDid you know that almost 45 percent of all pickpocketing is done when one friend gives another friend a hug because they can sense they're having a bad day? It's true!
Maybe that's why we're so focused on buying things?Ooh baby, we love to buy things. Big things. Little things. Medium things. Adorable things. The more stuff we can buy to fill the gaping holes in our collective chests, the better off we'll be. Or so we tell ourselves.
We know there's a greater happiness out there, but we'd have to really work to attain it.
me trying to be happy https://t.co/kwUIl1NOwr— rinnie 🧡 skz • ia (@rinnie 🧡 skz • ia)1556549600.0
Still, it's easier to just hand over some money, get a trinket, and feel a quick little jolt of happiness.
via: ShutterstockBuying stuff requires no self-inspection, no confrontation with whatever feelings might be causing this unhappiness. It's the ultimate band-aid solution. But hey, a band-aid solution is still a solution, right?
Turns out, there is a better way.
via: ShutterstockYou see, the secret to being happy is to be a good person. And the secret to being a good person is to get some gratitude into your life. A new study from Thomas Gilovich, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Cornell University, suggests that spending our hard-earned dough on experiences, and not stuff, leads to more gratitude.
That means we should all be putting more emphasis on doing stuff and not buying stuff.See, Drew Brees plays football, which is in and of itself an experience. That's why he is the de facto mascot for gratefulness. He is also the de facto mascot for the New Orleans Saints.
And it makes sense, right?There's an emptiness that comes the moment after you've bought something. That new car, video game system, or, in this case, a bottle of water was never going to fix what was going on inside.
But according to Dr. Gilovich, when we spend money on a great vacation, or a nice time with friends, we tend to feel "blessed."To contrast how we feel when we buy a thing versus when we spend money on a good time, Dr. Gilovich said, “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.’ “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."
And if you've ever hung out with your best buds in one of those outdoor patio sections of a brewery on a nice summer night, you know what I'm talking about.
via: ShutterstockHere's a picture of me and my friends just celebrating being alive. And even though we're all in love with each other and are all jealous of each other and can't remember why we're friends in the first place and don't really care much for each other, we'll treasure this night forever.
Gilovich's study also suggests that feeling grateful will make us more likely to be generous towards other people.Intuitively, that makes sense. When we feel good — really and truly good, not good because we're ignoring something worse — we want other people to feel that same goodness.
That means if we feel gratitude, we'll be inspired to make other people feel gratitude, which will then inspire them to make other people feel gratitude.It's a chain — you make one friend feel gratitude, they make two friends feel gratitude, those two make their two friends feel gratitude, and before you know it, literally the whole world is just swimming in gratitude.
Customer reviews posted online were key to this study.Gilovich's team collected 1200 customer reviews — half for experiences like vacations or concerts and half for material goods like toys or laptops — and looked at how often the concept of gratitude was coming up.
Reviews for things we have were less likely to reference gratitude than reviews for things we do.
Summer 2019 is all about new experiences https://t.co/WzCskEjcKA— mofo (@mofo)1556601244.0
A researcher on the study, Jesse Walker, has a theory as to why experiences lead to more gratitude than things.Experiences are less likely to cause us to compare ourselves to those around us. Think about it — having a new car feels great... until you see your neighbor's even newer, even better car.
But with a new experience, you just get to enjoy the moments!Do you ever get angry when someone has a slightly better experience than you? No! You just smile and enjoy it yourself. That is literally all you have to do.
For example, you never never go to a concert with someone and try to have a better time than they do.By the same token, it's not like you'd ever be standing next to your friend as they rock out to Panic at the Disco! and go, "Oh my god, they're enjoying Panic at the Disco! so much more than I am! What's the matter with me?!"
Another part of the study saw researchers gather college students to talk about a recent purchase, either a thing or an experience.
via: ShutterstockI'm sure it was very easy to get them all together. College students love to group up and talk, sometimes until late at night, just about, you know, life and whether God exists and stuff.
They were then asked to rate how grateful they were for that purchase.
via: ShutterstockNot how much they liked the purchase, but how grateful they were. It's an important distinction — I like scarfing down an entire Domino's pizza, but I'm never grateful I did.
As you may have guessed, the experimental side was more grateful.Some are even as grateful as Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and also the very symbol of gratefulness. I mean, seriously. This dude is so grateful. All the time. It's nuts.
But the next step of the experiment was even more interesting: another group of participants was asked to think of a recent purchase.This time, instead of rating how they felt about the purchase, it was a straight up-or-down choice: was that thing they bought a material object or a great time?
Then, those same participants were asked to divide 10 dollars between themselves and an anonymous stranger.No word on how many people there were, but at minimum, we had two study participants and one stranger, so at most, everyone involved here was going to get no more than $3.34.
But the participants who remembered buying an experience gave one to two dollars more than the group who remembered buying a thing.
via: ShutterstockAnd when you're only working with 10 dollars, one or two dollars is a lot of money. So way to go anonymous strangers in the experience groups — you made out like a damn bandit.
This suggests that gratitude inspires gratitude.Captain, the gratitude's out of control!
Co-author Amit Kumar, Ph.D., says "the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well."That's right, all of us together can feel the benefits of gratitude. And since we know that feeling gratitude makes us feel good, we are objectively being good people if we're inspiring others to feel gratitude.
And wasn't that the goal from the start?
via: ShutterstockLook at this family — they're the proof that gratitude is where it's at. You just know they're going to remember cooking this meal together, spending time laughing and frying and sautéing and just generally enjoying each other, and not buying all those knives and artisan cutting boards.