Image courtesy of Flickr on Creative Commons.
Amidst incessant TV flicker and commercial bombardment this noisy nation seems destined to become possessed by its possessions. With dwindling opportunity to truly disconnect from everyday distractions it's easy to take the things that really matter for granted. Can we ever find happiness in a new car? Meaning in an iPad? Or love in Geiger boots? They certainly offer temporary respite from the pursuit of happiness, but they remain merely distractions offering little in the way of sustained enjoyment.
The excitement of the shop window doesn't last forever and as our possessions fade from pride and place to eBay marketplace we have to wonder how our money might be better spent. Could it be another iPad or this season's heels? Despite the machinations of Madmen across the capital, jump starting the consumer cycle is not the answer. Studies show spending money on an experience such as a day out or a life learning class rather than a physical product leads to a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing.
These experiences create lasting memories, the value of which only improves with age. Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of the National Institute of Mental Health notes that vacations 'are rarely perfect, but we remember them as perfect'. Experiences offer a change of scenery and pace which flourishes in the mind so when we look back upon our year we remember our adventures rather than our shopping baskets.
Paris '07, Delhi '95, California '88 - as time moves forward our positive memories rise to the fore because whilst a memory can dull, its value never wanes.
Professor Lyubomirsky's study goes on to say that the shared element of our experiences improves our social bonds further improving our sense of wellbeing. A day out with friends or a dinner at The Ivy can be relived through our memories strengthening the foundations of our relationships, so when we reminisce about 'the time when...' we find the priceless value of each excursion. Not only do these warm exchanges help us to feel safe and surrounded by others they give us the opportunity to feel the same flood of emotions we felt the first time round. Now does your car give you that?
The study concludes that the only use of money that directly correlates with sustained happiness was on these memory making experiences. So the next time you find yourself channel hopping between split-second ad excerpts and day dreaming of Chanel and Swatch ask yourself if it's the acquisition of material goods that truly makes you happy?