New Research Shows How To Be Happy

Happiness is different for everyone. My source of joy and contentment has to be different than yours, for no other reason that there wouldn’t be enough of one thing to go around. For instance, if Mac computers were the only way to find happiness, the supply couldn’t keep up with demand – and nobody would be happy.

New research shows that the one thing that provides happiness is our experiences.

How to be Happy: Get Rid of the Stuff

This whole “retail therapy” thing is not only a waste of money, it doesn’t work as a way to be happy. Possessions aren’t a source of joy and contentment, and they can’t make you happy. According to Assistant Professor Leaf Van Boven (University of Colorado at Boulder), people enjoy more pleasure and life satisfaction from experiencing things than buying material goods. Even just thinking about participating in experiences instead of buying possessions induces a more positive mood!

Experiences are the secret to finding happiness. This, by the way, supports the theory in The Secret that visualization has the same effects as actually doing an activity. Thinking about doing something can induce the same positive mood and happy feelings as if you were actually participating in that activity. So, if you’re interested in how to be happy but are stuck in the office or in prison, visualize activities that bring happiness.

Why Experiences Are The Source Of Happiness:

Professor Van Boven claims there are three reasons that experiences are the source of joy and contentment:

Experiences are open to positive reinterpretations.

Your experience (even if it’s arguing with your partner about leaving the toilet seat up when you’re in the middle a shopping excursion at the grocery store) can be reinterpreted as fun, interesting, and positive. Experiences are relative, and depend on your thought processes. A possession, on the other hand, is what it is. It’s outside of you and doesn’t relate to your identity (unless of course you invented it, but that’s a different story). Possessions don’t change and are separate from you. They aren’t a source of joy and contentment because they don’t change.

Experiences are a meaningful part of your identity.

Your experiences often involve goals and accomplishments, which usually initiate happy feelings. There are more personal meanings, attachments, and values in your experiences than in your stuff. The source of happiness involves who you are as a person.

Experiences contribute to more successful relationships.

Experiencing an event with someone brings you closer together. It’s cathartic and even fun to talk about your experience, especially if it was a complete disaster! Sharing your memories with your loved ones is a source of joy and contentment. It draws you closer together and strengthens your bonds. Most of the time you experience things with other people, which means your social ties are evolving and getting stronger. Reminiscing about your past together brings up happy feelings, which can strengthen your present moments together.