Spending on Memorable Experiences Linked to Mental Well-Being

Spending on Memorable Experiences Linked to Mental Well-Being

We can all relate to the euphoric feeling of payday. But where you choose to spend your cash can make a big difference in your mental well-being.

Today’s consumer culture means products are designed and marketed keeping the target audience in mind. Manufacturing products that satisfy the needs of the population and smart advertising means people are spending more than ever before.

Businesses are striving day and night to learn more about their potential buyers and this effort to glean information is paying off. One such example is Apple’s rise to the top by designing products fulfilling the needs of its niche audience. Every little detail from the packaging to the phone features are well-thought-out and echo the demands of a society inclined toward minimalism.

Companies nowadays have redefined the shopping experience by making sure those endorphins and dopamine neural circuits fire off and consumers keep coming back for more. And while a minimalist clutter-free lifestyle is slowly gaining popularity due to influencers such as Marie Kondo, it is unrealistic to expect spending urge of the larger population to vanish completely any time soon.

A new study to be published in the May issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology analyzes the level of happiness we generate from spending. The study findings suggest that spending on experiences produces more joy as compared to spending on material possessions.

While the novelty of material possessions soon wears off, the memories created from spending on new experiences outlast. Researchers at the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin recruited 2,635 adults who were split into two groups and assigned material or experiential purchases. Texts were sent to the participants at random throughout the day to observe their emotions and their purchasing behavior.

The people assigned to the group making material purchases bought items such as jewelry, clothing or furniture whereas experiential shoppers went to sporting events, dined out or engaged in other mood-elevating experiences. The results show that people who spent on experiences rather than material goods felt a higher level of happiness regardless of the amount they had to pay.

The researchers conducted another study to consolidate their findings by asking a group of 5000 participants to rate their happiness then answer whether they had used, enjoyed or consumed a material or experiential purchase an hour ago. The results once again linked spending on a memorable experience to a higher level of happiness.

Even though material purchases stay with us over a long time, the happiness they evoke gradually declines. Spending on a vacation, a trip or dining out contributes to more joy as we plan for the experience, during the excursion and afterward as well. The positive feelings towards the experience get tied up in our memories and endure the test of time while material objects wither away.

Lead author of the study Amit Kumar states, “If you want to be happier, it might be wise to shift some of your consumption away from material goods and a bit more toward experiences. That would likely lead to greater well-being.”

So if you have already spent your hard-earned cash on that killer red dress, consider trading it for parasailing perhaps.

Written by Farwa Batool

MSc Biotechnology.
Writer and a mom of two beautiful daughters.

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