So you just received your yearly bonus, or a salary raise at work, or an unexpected ‘chunk of change’, and what do most of us usually think about doing with it? Off to do some shopping. While we may feel really excited when we bring all those purchases home, that excitement doesn’t seem to last for more than a few days. And then the happiness is gone, without even leaving a trace of those feel-good feelings behind.
So how to find more of that elusive happiness we may be seeking when we go on a shopping trip? How to find true happiness might be a better question? It seems that the biggest hurdle or obstacle to finding happiness is actually adaption. Have you noticed that once that bright, shiny, new Whatever becomes unexciting and ordinary, the feeling of satisfaction seems to diminish and then disappear? Then we are off to find something else really exciting and exhilarating to buy, only to feel that happiness slip away within a few days. And if we are not aware of this pattern, then we are doomed to keep repeating it over and over again.
Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University has been doing research on this very topic, and discovered some very interesting results for you to consider the next time you feel the need to go shopping for some Thing. His studies have determined that the rise in our happiness levels we feel when we go shopping is very similar to the happiness levels that we feel when we go traveling, or on an adventure. But more importantly though, the happiness hormones released when traveling last much longer, even after we return home, than the happiness levels triggered when we go shopping. In fact, the memories you bring home, rather than the souvenirs you bought, continue to recharge those happiness hormones longer than those souvenirs even could.
Buying a new computer, a new gadget, or even a new car does eventually become just another one of the things we own, and eventually they will all become outdated. But taking a trip, trying a new sport, even challenging yourself to an extreme sport, or learning a new skill all contribute to triggering more happiness hormones than any kind of shopping trip could. Eventually whatever you bought will need to be replaced, and no longer brings you much happiness. Every new memory from some amazing adventure will be something to be shared with friends, remembered in great stories, or reviewed in your photo selection. And these will last a lifetime.
So the next time you are feeling kind of blue and looking for what might pick up your spirits, don’t reach for your wallet and car keys to get you to the mall. Instead, start remembering what kinds of adventures you loved as a kid, think about what new skill you have really been wanting to explore, or even better, get out the world map. For most of us, there are usually one or two places in the world, or even in your neighborhood, that have been calling to you to come for a visit. When you go out your front door this time, think about the really great stories you are going to have to share with family and friends when you get back. This kind of happiness is what lasts.
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