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.