How to Achieve Happiness in a Consumerist Society

If you must buy, buy a shared experience gift.

At least, that is what Daniel Gilbert, social psychologist at Harvard and author of Stumbling on Happiness, a New York Times paperback best seller winner of the 2007 Royal Society Prize for Science Books, states.

The response is from an interview in the NYTimes.

We know that the best predictor of human happiness is human relationships and the amount of time that people spend with family and friends.

We know that it’s significantly more important than money and somewhat more important than health. That’s what the data shows. The interesting thing is that people will sacrifice social relationships to get other things that won’t make them as happy — money. That’s what I mean when I say people should do “wise shopping” for happiness.

Another thing we know from studies is that people tend to take more pleasure in experiences than in things. So if you have “x” amount of dollars to spend on a vacation or a good meal or movies, it will get you more happiness than a durable good or an object. One reason for this is that experiences tend to be shared with other people and objects usually aren’t.

You can spend lots of money on experiences. People think a car will last and that’s why it will bring you happiness. But it doesn’t. It gets old and decays. But experiences don’t. You’ll “always have Paris” — and that’s exactly what Bogart meant when he said it to Ingrid Bergman. But will you always have a washing machine? No.

Today, I’m going to Dallas to meet my wife and I’m flying first class, which is ridiculously expensive. But the experience will be far more delightful than a new suit. Another way I follow what I’ve learned from data is that I don’t chase dollars now that I have enough of them, because I know that it will take a very large amount of money to increase my happiness by a small amount.

He later goes on to clarify that money *CAN* buy happiness, as

1. you need basic necessessities such as food, clothing, and shelter
2. something has to pay for these experiences.

But that new car, suit, house, or jewelry? It won’t make you nearly has happy if you had spent some time with someone with whom you cared.

Here is to shared experience presents.


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