Does stuff make you happy?
Stephanie Rosenbloom's nuanced analysis of the current research about the connection between consumption and happiness is here.
Her key points:
1. Do instead of collect.
Spending money for an experience– classes, travel, concert tickets– produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on another bag or sweater.
2. Spend on leisure.
In one study, the only category of consumption that is positively correlated to happiness is leisure (vacations, entertainment, sports and equipment), because that spending typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness.
3. Make it last.
Remember the kid on the playground who made his jawbreaker last for all of recess? Longevity contributes to perceived happiness; therefore, experiences provide more happiness because you can't "consume in one gulp".
4. Look forward.
Anticipation increases happiness, so book that trip months in advance instead of buying a last-minute ticket.
5. Have less to enjoy more.
Having an embarrassment of riches reduced the ability to reap enjoyment from life's smaller pleasures, like eating a Lindt Fleur de Sel chocolate bar.
I don't see the possessions/experience choice as an either-or proposition, and feel a jolt of joy when I buy yoga classes, contribute to a charity I revere or treat a friend to a visit to Body Blitz with me. (Oh yes...and occasionally I buy pearls.)
I'm far less acquisitive than a decade or two ago; are you? The notion of having less stuff, more time (the life shift described by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin in "Your Money or Your Life") resonates.
And this 2004 TED talk, by Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist and author of "Stumbling on Happiness" challenges the idea that we won't be happy if we don't get what we want in an entertaining 20-minute video.
Are you happier now than you were five years ago? What do you consume that contributes to your happiness?