What makes you happy? Is it that new promotion? Shiny new Tesla in your driveway? Binge watching Netflix with your significant other?
There’s no right answer. It depends on you. However, there is a consensus that experiences, and not material items, actually make us happier.
Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, conducted a 20-year study that found that experiences make people happy. The reason? Because of something called the the Easterlin Paradox.
This is a phenomenon that states that after we’ve met basic needs, money will only increase happiness to a certain point for the following reasons:
- Happiness over material items eventually fades.
- Experiences define our purpose and passion.
- Possessions don’t contribute to social settings.
- Moments are more memorable.
- Experiences introduce you new perspectives, life lessons, and even gratitude.
- Having too much stuff gets stressful.
- It’s not actually fun keeping up with the Joneses.
While that’s all well and good, what experiences, make us the happiest? Here are ten that accomplish just that.
Sure. Traveling can be stressful. And, the trek coming home is a drag. The bottom line is that traveling is the ultimate experiences. It forces you to get out of your comfort zone and try new activities, eat new food. You become exposed to new customs and cultures, and absorb beautiful and inspiring scenery.
A study conducted by Dr. Jeroen Nawijn, a senior lecturer in Tourism at the NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands. Nawiji found that, “Vacationers reported a higher degree of pre-trip happiness, compared to non-vacationers, possibly because they are anticipating their holiday.
Only a very relaxed holiday trip boosts vacationers’ happiness further after return. Generally, there is no difference between vacationers’ and non-vacationers’ post-trip happiness.”
If you don’t have the time, money, or are an introvert, the good news is that even day trips can boost your happiness.
“The main reasons why people enjoy vacations are an increased sense of autonomy (i.e., less structure) and social bonding,” Dr. Nawijn said. “So if you can achieve that during a day trip, I don’t see why it shouldn’t make you feel as good as on vacation.”
2. Go to conferences or workshops.
Attend a conference or workshop. Either for professional development or just because it’s something you’re personally interested in, is beneficial.
They allow you to mingle with like-minded people and walk away learning something new or exciting. Think about how those people leaving San Diego Comic-Con felt. They just saw an exclusive teaser trailer for an upcoming Marvel blockbuster.
How about the burst of inspiration you now have after listening to Tony Robbins speak?
3. Attend concerts.
Researchers from Deakin University in Victoria, Australia, found that attending concerts can make you happy. Deakin University’s Melissa Weinberg, who co-authored the study, told CNN. “This is due to emotional and social connections.”
“It’s that active engagement that seems to be critical,” she says. “People who intentionally interact with music, they’re using an outlet to express their emotions.”
“Music seems to be a way that can facilitate social connections,” Weinberg says. “And we know social relationships are absolutely critical to subjective wellbeing. Anything that has people coming together through mutual interest or commonality will contribute to this, including music.”
4. Get cultural.
A study that collected data on the activities, mood, and health. Over 50,000 adults in Norway discovered that those who participated in more cultural activities were happier.
Such activities as seeing a play or visiting a museum, reported higher happiness levels and lower anxiety and depression.
The researchers also found that men benefited more from receptive, or passive, cultural activities (like visiting museums, art exhibitions, concerts or theaters).
While women enjoyed active participation events (like club meetings, singing, outdoor activities and dance).
It’s been found in multiple studies that volunteers live longer and happier lives. The reason? For starters volunteering can help you make new friends and contacts and improve your social skills.
It’s also good for you physically and mentally since it counteracts the effects of stress, anger, anxiety, high blood pressure, and chronic pain.
Most importantly, humans are hardwired to help other others. That’s why giving back feels so awesome. It delivers immense pleasure.
6. Talk to strangers.
Yes. Chatting to a stranger may seem awkward, but it’s actually good for you! As the New York Times reports;
“The behavioral scientists Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder approached commuters in a Chicago area train station and asked them to break the rules.”
In return for a $5 Starbucks gift card, these commuters agreed to participate in a simple experiment during their train ride. One group was asked to talk to the stranger who sat down next to them on the train that morning.
Other people were told to follow standard commuter norms, keeping to themselves.
By the end of the train ride, commuters who talked to a stranger reported having a more positive experience than those who had sat in solitude.”
Another study found similar results from giving Starbucks visitors a $5 gift card in exchange for having a “genuine interaction with the cashier.”
Even if it’s brief, connecting with another person is a guaranteed way to increase our happiness.
7. Learn a new hobby to make you happy.
Learning something new is mentally stimulating, challenging, boosts your self-confidence, reduces anxiety, and connects you with a new group of people.
Whether if it’s meditating, learning a new language, taking a cooking class, planting a garden, or taking a class to learn a new skill, hobbies will enhance the quality of your life, which in turn will make you happier.
8. Try new restaurants.
It’s no secret that we’re hardwired to love food – thanks to the release of dopamine.
But dining out at new restaurants forces us to leave the house, try something new, and socialize with either friends, family, or like-minded strangers.
In short, giving that new Peruvian restaurant just opened -up across town isn’t just going to be delicious, it’s going to make you happy.
9. Get outside.
Being exposed to green spaces has been associated with better mental health. Heck, even just looking at images of nature can stimulate the parts of your brain associated with happiness, positivity, and emotional stability.
Environmental psychologist Judith Heerwagon tells the Huffington Post that “the theory is that we respond positively to things that are good for us.”
She adds, “Trees offer shade, protection and often have fruits and nuts, so they are a source of food as well as protection and comfort.”
Furthermore, the great outdoors increases Vitamin D intake, reduces stress, improves brain function, and keeps us more physically fit. It can even assist with improving social relationships – remember all those friends you made when you went to camp as a kid?
Instead of staying inside, go camping, take a hike, or just relax in a park or beach.
Writing is an excellent outlet for releasing your thoughts – both negative and positive. Instead of filling your head with negative thoughts and ideas, jot those thoughts down in a journal or your blog.
At the same time, when you document positive experiences that you’re grateful for, you’re more likely to feel happier. As well people are more satisfied with life.
But, if you really want to give your mood a positive jump start, call a friend and share some of your happy journal entries. It may actually triple your positive feelings.
What experiences make you happy?