Happiness blog: Experiences or Stuff? What makes you Happier?

2013-10-04T15:04:00Z Happiness blog: Experiences or Stuff? What makes you Happier?Lydia Breunig and Lori Harwood University of Arizona Arizona Daily Star

In the article, “If money doesn't make you happy, then you probably aren't spending it right,” researchers argue that people should buy fewer material things (stuff) and more experiences, such as vacations with family, a nice meal at a restaurant, a concert, or dance lessons.

The researchers write, “Experiences are good; but why are they better than things? One reason is that we adapt to things so quickly. After devoting days to selecting the perfect hardwood floor to install in a new condo, homeowners find their once beloved Brazilian cherry floors quickly become nothing more than the unnoticed ground beneath their feet." In contrast, the memory of a great birthday party continues to provide delight.

Another reason why people seem to get more happiness from experiences than things is that they anticipate and remember experiences, so the pleasure lasts longer. In one study, social scientists found that the anticipation of a vacation boosted happiness for eight weeks prior to taking the trip!

We are lucky to have a lot going on in Tucson that makes for wonderful experiences. Just look at the events happening in October alone that are unique to Tucson. There are festivals such as Tucson Meet Yourself and the All Souls Procession. Arts and entertainment events like Shakespeare in the Park, the Desert Bluegrass Festival, and Second Saturdays Downtown. There are athletic events you can watch (Go Cats!) and in which you can participate, like El Tour de Tucson. (Ok, El Tour doesn’t happen until November…but according to the research we are already enjoying the anticipation of its arrival). Be sure to tell us what local event you are most looking forward to.

The best thing is that many of these experiences are free! When the Arizona Daily Star asked you last week “What about Tucson makes you happy,” most of your answers related to the “experience” of living here, from the mountains and sunsets to the mix of cultures. So, in Tucson you don’t even need money to have great experiences.

What do you think? Is money better spent on experiences than things? What events and festivities in Tucson do you look forward to that make you happy?

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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About this blog

"Happiness Tucson" shares research from the social and behavioral sciences on happiness and relates it to Tucson. It is facilitated by the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, one of the largest colleges at the UA which approximately 6,000 majors in 20 different departments including sociology, communication, political science, anthropology, and history - among others.

The social and behavioral sciences are dedicated to understanding people and their connections - with each other, the world around them, and their pasts - and using that knowledge to help make communities healthier and more vibrant.

The UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences is on the UA campus in the Douglass Building. Please visit the college's website or find it on Facebook. To make suggestions for topics for this blog or to get more information, email downtownlectures@email.arizona.edu.

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