If you were asked to describe the happiest experience you have ever had, what would you say?
Take a minute right now and think about it, maybe even close your eyes to relive that moment in detail.
How happy were you?
How often do you feel that happy?
What if I told you there is an overwhelming bank of evidence that suggests how you experience your life has a direct effect on how happy you are. True.
“Spend your hard-earned money on experiences instead of possessions and you will be happier!”
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My own happy memory goes back to warm summer nights in Minnesota sitting around a campfire with really close friends and family.
We were singing old favorite songs together and just plain having fun.
I can smell the campfire, feel the breeze and see the stars in the sky.
None of us were professional singers, but that didn’t stop us from belting out You Are My Sunshine, with perfect harmony.
At least it was perfect for all of us.
If I close my eyes, I can see the smiling faces of our children singing along, not knowing they were making life-long memories of their own.
If given the chance, would I spend money to relive that experience — You bet!
In fact, your identity is largely made up of an accumulation of everything you’ve seen, the things you’ve done, and the places you’ve been.
But make no mistake, we are not who we are because of the kind of car we drive, the diamonds on our fingers, or our big homes.
How Does Money Buy Happiness?
Let me start by saying there is over a decade of Psychology research that clearly shows experiences bring people more happiness than do possessions.
What I am telling you here, is that if you find yourself with some money to spend, make a list of experiences that would make you happy.
In the past, spending my money on things like travel, going out for dinner, going to a concert have always seemed like extras or extravagances to me.
I’m quite sure this belief comes from decades of being told to save as much money as possible and also, deprivation was believed to be virtuous — Yuk.
So, it’s no wonder deciding now to spend my money on experiences instead of possessions without feeling guilty was a leap, to say the least.
But, I’m doing it and I’m hoping to inspire you to start right now whatever your age.
My new advice- Definitely, invest in yourself.
If you aren’t convinced yet, let me tell you about
THREE PROVEN reasons we should take time to
PLAN OUR BEST LIFE EXPERIENCES.
1. You Can’t Buy Time
I bet you knew that.
One thing is for sure, if you don’t plan for the experiences you want, time will go by and as a result, they will never happen, OR someone else will plan your time for you.
Do you need a plan to Experience Your Life and be happier?
Certainly, you do, we all do.
Don’t let life just pass by without living it up, having fun, or relaxing.
So ask yourself, what would make you happy?
Let me ask you, are you sitting there thinking about making plans in the far future or when you reach a certain age?
Don’t Wait For Someday. This IS Someday!
The bottom line, I really value my time and I want to spend it doing things that make me happy.
2. Anticipating Experiences Enhances Happiness
Think of the last time you planned a vacation or even a weekend get-away.
Do you remember the feeling of counting down the days until you got to leave?
Did you feel happy just thinking about your trip?
Make sense right? There you go, plan for your experiences is and let your self get excited about your plans before they happen!
Now, let’s apply this concept to possessions.
Think about it, the anticipation of receiving a new possession like a back-ordered iPhone doesn’t come close to the excitement of planning and anticipating a weekend at the lake.
And even if you are excited about your new phone, you know it is short-lived and doesn’t last a lifetime. That’s even laughable
Here is a fact you mull around for a while.
Do you know how long material objects really do make us happy?
Actually, researchers have determined it is only between six and 12 weeks!
Plan Experiences for the Holidays.
Speaking of anticipation, who doesn’t look forward to the magic that only happens during the holidays.
At holiday time I have a well- deserved reputation for spending too much and buying too many presents for family.
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with spending money on others
I just love looking under the Christmas tree and seeing it stuffed with wrapped gifts.
What I realize now, is that when the presents are unwrapped, the joy I felt was not long-lasting.
It’s pretty anticlimactic when the gifts are opened and the returns and exchanges begin.
Our son-in-law actually changed my thinking.
He had been asking for years to take a family trip together over the holidays instead of buying so many gifts.
I scoffed at the idea year after year, and then finally I understood what he was trying to tell me.
This past Christmas we not only experienced a performance of A Christmas Carol together, but we also took a trip!
We had an amazing time together as a family, and are already planning for our next holiday trip together.
3. EXPERIENCES BRING SOCIAL CONNECTION
And Social Connections Bring Happiness!
That means spending time with other people makes you happy!
I would argue it depends on who the people are, but that’s not the point here.
Usually, when you spend your money on experiences, it also involves spending time with friends and family or meeting new people.
Another thing experts all agree on, social experiences make you happier and healthier.
I wanted to help get you started right now planning your own Life Experiences, so I created an Experience Your Life Planner.
The value is great- it’s free!
- Just for You
- Together with Two or a Few
- Learning Something New
- Give Experience Gifts
In the interest of space, here is a short description of experiences from each of the five categories,
but actually in the planner there 100 experience ideas in all!
1. Travel is the Ultimate Experience
Travel is always at the top of the list when you think about “best experiences”.
I think it is because it bundles so many things that we know enhance our lives and makes us happier.
Stop saying, “Yes, I know all of that and someday I will”.
Well, hopefully, you will be lucky enough to get to “someday”, and when you get there, you are able to recognize it.
As I said before, Someday doesn’t mean retirement, SOMEDAY IS TODAY!
Take that trip now, no matter what your age.
2. Experiences Just For You
Spending time just for you can at first seem selfish or even boring. However, time alone is an opportunity to reflect on how you want to spend your time and live your life.
When you buy or plan experiences for yourself, you are simply planning for things that make you the happiest, and that sounds pretty wonderful.
- Getting a Massage
- Starting a Gratitude Journal
- Drink a very expensive bottle of wine
- Binge watch a new series on Netflix
- Watch the sunrise or watch it set
3. Learn Something New
The More You Learn the More Empowered You Become-Unknown
If you consider yourself a life-long learner, this is for you.
Is there something you have ALWAYS wanted to do, but just haven’t? How about:
- Taking a writing course
- Learning to play an instrument
- Learn a new language
- Learn to play chess
- Maybe you want to dance or swim?
LEARNING CHANGES YOU and WHAT YOU LEARN IS YOURS TO KEEP
4. Experiences For Two or a Few
Telling you to plan for experiences with your family sounds crazy because it is so obvious, but you have to PLAN for time together every single day even if there are only two of you. Need a few ideas?
- Take a walk in the park together
- Go for dinner in at a special restaurant
- Plan a long weekend to an Airbnb
- Play some favorite music and dance
- Go to New York City and take in a Broadway Show
Memories of experiences tend to grow richer over time.
5. Give the Best Gifts- Give Experiences
Seriously, when you give someone an experience for a gift, you are going to even be happier than they are!.
Research says when someone receives an experience as a gift they feel more connected to the gift-giver even if they don’t share in the experience!
The same cannot be said for material gifts.
So, a few ideas here include:
- Concert tickets
- Escape Room Adventures
- Dinner theater tickets
- A weekend getaway
- Cooking classes
How to Use Your Experience Planner
- First, download to print your planner or make a copy in Google Sheets for an electronic copy to keep on your desktop.
- Read through the list in each category and check off any idea that interests you
- There is space for you to write in experiences you KNOW you want on your list
- Rate or prioritize your choices and add a Goal Date.
- You can modify your planner and make changes anytime a new idea pops up
Experience your life!!
You can change your list anytime, but please don’t make a list once and put it in a drawer or in a lost file on your computer.
To learn more about happiness, you may find Are You Happy Are You Sure?
Finally, please leave your advice in the comments below- I love hearing from you.
Gilbert & Wilson (2000). ”Miswanting: Some problems in the forecasting of future affective states.” In Thinking and feeling: The role of