Now that the holiday season is here, we’ve been thinking a lot about gifts. Most of us have a limited amount of money. How can we make sure that it is well spent on gifts that will bring long term happiness?
Research has been done on how people could use their money to make themselves happier. Although it seems to make sense that spending money on material objects would increase happiness because possessions last longer than an experience, the opposite is true.
The Possession Paradox
The paradox of possessions is that although we think that the enjoyment we get from an object will last as long as the thing itself, that is wrong. Possessions can make us happy, but only for a while. The excitement of that new toy, iPhone or clothing can quickly fade into the background as they become a part of our daily lives. There are 3 reasons why this happens.
- Adaptation – We get used to the stuff we’re surrounded with. Possessions that once seemed unique and exciting quickly become common.
- Novelty seeking – New possessions lead to updated expectations. Once we get used to a new object, we look for something better.
- Comparison – We must keep up with the Joneses. Objects are easy to compare. We are happy with our new TV/car/bike until a friend buys a better one—and there’s always someone with a better one. Ever had this happen with a brand new bike? We have.
Experiences Are Powerful
According to researchers, although experiences are fleeting, they tend to deliver more-lasting happiness than things. Here’s why:
Researchers have found that anticipation of obtaining a possession causes impatience. However, anticipation of an experience causes excitement and enjoyment. Experiences are enjoyable from the very first moments of planning, all the way through to the memories you cherish forever.
Harder To Compare
We can’t compare experiences in the same way that we compare objects. It’s almost impossible to quantify the relative value of any two experiences, which removes the compulsion to keep up with the Joneses. This makes experiences that much more enjoyable.
Experiences Are Temporary
Paradoxically, this is a good thing for happiness. Think of the last item you purchased that wasn’t as good as you hoped it would be. Once you own something, you get reminded of how it wasn’t as cool as you thought it would be every time you see the object. Fleeting experiences don’t allow this to happen. Good experiences seem to get better over time. Even bad experiences (type 2 fun, anyone?) become excellent stories to share and bond over. The value of experiences actually increases over time.
Experiences connect us to other people. Obviously, having experiences with other people creates deeper and more meaningful relationships. Significantly, even when an experience has ended, it continues to play a role in relationships. When you run into a fellow mountain biker, you have a certain easy bond and connection. You can talk about trails, the places you’ve biked and the adventures you’ve had. Social connections are a major key to happiness.
You can really like your material belongings, but they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences. Buying a new TV isn’t going to change who you are; but tackling an epic mountain bike ride most certainly will. We become travelers or foodies or mountain bikers.
Things may last longer than experiences, but the memories that linger are what matter most. Does that mean the end of unwrapping gifts? Not necessarily. There is actually research that shows that a certain type of material gift give more lasting happiness than others. If you are going to buy a material item, choose a product that will lead to an experience. Experience-oriented products have been shown to increase well-being and happiness, too.
Here Is A List Of Our Favorite Gifts
- A trip to a new or old favorite mountain bike location. Check out our Destinations and Trails page to see some of the places we have visited.
- Lessons/camps. Give your loved one the gift of new skills! One of our favorite camps is SGC, but search your local area for lessons or camps near you.
- Mountain bikes and accessories – Yes, we know these are objects, but these objects will lead to experiences with your family and friends! Check out our MTB gift list to find the best experience oriented gifts!
Have you given the gift of mountain biking experiences to your family? We’d love to see and hear all about it. Share your best gifts with us on our MTB With Kids Facebook page
Wanting to get your kids out on bikes with you? Visit our Tips for Mountain Biking With Kids articles to help you get started.