Want Happiness? Buy Memories, Not Objects

In one of my very first posts, I wrote about an art­icle that noted how “money will make you hap­pi­er, up to a point. After that, it makes no dif­fer­ence. That point is the won­der­fully quant­it­at­ive ‘point of com­fort’.

That is, once we have enough money to feed, clothe and house ourselves, extra money makes little impact to our hap­pi­ness. Or does it?

Recent research look­ing at this phe­nomen­on is start­ing to sug­gest that more money can indeed buy hap­pi­ness, but we’re just not very good at doing so.

[Research­ers] are begin­ning to offer an intriguing explan­a­tion for the poor wealth-to-hap­pi­ness exchange rate: The prob­lem isn’t money, it’s us. For deep-seated psy­cho­lo­gic­al reas­ons, when it comes to spend­ing money, we tend to value goods over exper­i­ences, ourselves over oth­ers, things over people. When it comes to hap­pi­ness, none of these decisions are right: The spend­ing that make us happy, it turns out, is often spend­ing where the money van­ishes and leaves some­thing inef­fable in its place.

As Jonah Lehr­er puts it, “Instead of buy­ing things, we should buy memor­ies”. But why? Lehr­er con­tin­ues:

Why don’t things make us happy? The answer, I think, has to do with a fun­da­ment­al fea­ture of neur­ons: habitu­ation. When sens­ory cells are exposed to the same stim­u­lus over and over again, they quickly get bored and stop fir­ing.

This memor­ies-over-objects the­ory seems to tie-in quite nicely with these pre­vi­ous find­ings.