Whether you’re looking for quick ways to maximize a short vacay or booking a dreamy vacation inspired by your favorite Disney princess, spending your time and money on new adventures almost always makes you feel better — and has longer-lasting positive effects — than throwing cash into a new coat or saving up for a pair of sneakers. There’s a reason why, and now science has actually proven that spending money on experiences rather than things makes you more grateful, and in turn, more generous.
In a recent study conducted by Cornell University, researchers found that people who spent their money on vacations, museum trips, park visits, dining out and other experiences felt more gratitude for their own life and generosity toward others after their purchases than those who spent their money on material possessions.
Thomas Gilovich, study co-author and professor of psychology, explains it this way: “You might say, ‘this new couch is cool,’ but you’re less likely to say ‘I’m so grateful for that set of shelves.’ But when you come home from a vacation, you are likely to say, ‘I feel so blessed I got to go.'”
For one part of the study, Gilovich and his team poured through over 600 online customer reviews for experiential purchases like hotel stays and restaurant outings and another 600 online customer reviews for consumer goods like clothes and furniture. It was in the experiential reviews that people most often referred to feeling grateful about their purchase.
In another part of the study, the team had participants play an economic game. Those who were asked to think about a favorable experience were more generous to others during the game than those who were asked to think about a favorable material purchase.
So what does this all mean? Jesse Walker, a graduate student in the field of psychology and first author of the study, says that we’re more likely to compare the things we buy to others’ material goods than we are to compare our experiences to others’ experiences. It’s easy to compare say, your new TV to your neighbor’s (and be jealous of it) — there are specs and features you can measure. But who’s to say which one of you objectively had the better vacation over the summer? There’s no way to quantify fun, unique experiences or long-lasting memories.
Gilovich believes if governments started legislating these findings into action by turning more funding and attention to national parks, art museums, theater houses and unique local destinations, we’d not only increase personal happiness levels, we’d also create a more giving, thoughtful society in which to live. Feels like a major win-win to us!
What’s the last experience you’ve had that’s made you feel super grateful? Tweet us @BritandCo and let us know where you went!
(Photos via Getty)