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Cast your mind back to the last time you treated yourself to something. Maybe it was a brand new pair of shoes, or a car if you were feeling extravagant.

The initial rush you experienced from that purchase gave you a high. Your mood improved. It felt like happiness, right?

But as time goes by, that rush fades and your new shoes become less special. One or two scratch marks appear on your car, it clocks up more miles and it's not quite as exciting anymore.

You're already thinking about your next purchase, dreaming about what else you can splash your cash on.


The same cannot be said for your family holiday to Florida or romantic city break to Rome. Those experiences will never become less magical. The memories mean more to you than a pair of Kurt Geiger's or a shiny motor ever could.

The difference: authentic joy.



That notion is supported by researchers from San Francisco State University who discovered that you should use your money to enjoy more life experiences than material things because ultimately, you will be happier.

SF State student and the study's lead author, Paulina Pchelin, and Associate Professor of Psychology, Ryan Howell, who co-authored the study, surveyed people both before and after making a purchase.

They found that 'those surveyed after making a purchase rated life experiences both making them happier and as a better use of their money'.


But according to Howell, this is a fact that many of us are already aware of:

People actually do know, and accurately predict, that life experiences will make them happier.

What they really underestimate is how much monetary value they will get out of a life experience.

Even though they're told experiences will make them happier and they know experiences will make them happier, they still perceive material items as being a better value.
And this, he says, is because of money:

We naturally associate economic value with stuff. I bought this car, it's worth $8,000.

We have a hard time estimating the economic value we would place on our memories.

There were just huge underestimates in how much value people expected to get from their purchase.

It's almost like people feel they will get no economic value from their life experiences and therefore they feel this tension in spending money on them.



Howell went on to say that the benefits of prioritising happiness over value are immensely important, both on a personal level and in terms of wider society:

Happiness is not some fleeting, positive emotion we experience in the moment. There are tremendous benefits to happiness.

Companies want their employers to be happier because they are more productive. Doctors want their patients to be happier because they will be healthier.

We should try to figure out how to help people maximize their happiness because of all the benefits that come from it.


Jessie J was right all along.

Featured Image Credit: Pexels

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Abby Robinson

Abby is a writer for Pretty 52. She's an animation enthusiast, daydreams about roaming the wild with all her animal friends, and is failing to conquer her trainer addiction.

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