Does experience make us happy?

Finding the self through experiences rather than objects

How many of us remember experiences that make us happy? If we take a trip down memory lane we are bound to find at least three experiences that have made us glow like a light bulb inside. For example, Christmas day as a child, a special birthday or a magical anniversary that took place. It could even be a reconciliation with someone special or just a day that you remember feeling joyful over.

We may not think that experiences can add to our general state of wellbeing but in actual fact  [1]British philosophers John Locke and Jeremy Bentham claimed that happiness is determined by the number of positive events experienced in life (Lilinefeld et al 2010, & Eysenck, 1990). On the other hand, Eysenck says the No. 1 myth regarding happiness is that happiness is determined by the number and nature of pleasurable events experienced.
We all find happiness in different places. Some of us believe that relationships can make us happy, whereas others may believe that happiness is found through career or by having a successful family. There are many different aspects in life that can make us happy but if we are not entirely happy with who we are then finding happiness can become a task rather than a natural rhythm. Through life experience we begin to gain a sense of identity along with self belief. Once we have obtained the right level of self belief we can follow through with our pursuits and begin our individual life calling but before we get to that stage it is vital that we find out what makes us come to life, and what makes us happy. However, it can be easy to mistake happiness for short term fixes.

[2]Researchers believe that gaining happiness from objects – called materialism in the psychology literature -- affords us much less pleasure than another mechanism of happiness, experience. Experientialism, or using experiences to derive pleasure, appears to make us much happier than materialism and this is precisely why the matter remains open to debate.
The questions is: “Do experiences really make us happier than objects?” It may help you to consider an example:

[3]If objects made us happier, you would remember most of the gifts you received for a past birthday. Instead, we tend to remember the context surrounding those gifts more clearly -- the birthday party, Christmas morning, a Valentine's Day dinner. We don't remember the gift as much as we remember the experience surrounding the gift. This is an interesting concept that many of us perhaps push to the side without pondering the full meaning of the word “gift”. As humans we like to receive gifts because it makes us feel special and supreme and what is more, is that we feel we have the evidence to actually hold physically in our hands or in our surroundings with a gift whereas you can not prove a memory as such other than by storing it in your mind. But collectively or singularly we all hold memories that are close to our hearts, memories that have inspired us, stirred us, provoked us or simply called us to our destination. Sadly in times of doubt it is easy to forget these memories. Therefore it may be useful to consider the notion of creating more happy memories so that we can regain and strengthen our own sense of happiness and wellbeing. You may even like to consider the following examples:
Keep a happy box!

Create a box that mimics things about you. Decorate your chosen box with old photographs, friendship bracelets and store letters/emails that have made you smile. Inside the box you can keep gentle reminders of events that have made you smile. Even if it means phoning up your mum and asking for the old family photos or digging out an award that made you smile you will soon see a box of all the things that once made you happy, making room for more positive and powerful experiences.
Think realistically

Sometimes we buy into things unrealistically because we go by the assumption that objects or possessions are going to fill a gap in our lives. But usually when we purchase an item we feel we desire we often find ourselves falling into a come down after the object fades into the background or loses its meaning – we are then on to buy the next accessory without considering why we are buying it in the first place. It may be wise to think about and compare feelings, experiences and objects. How do you feel when you buy the object? How long does your feeling of exhilaration last? Now think about a magical experience that you have gone through and consider whether this helped you to stay focussed for a long time because you had something to build on? This could be meeting a new partner, graduating, starting a new job or taking up a new creative project.
Start sprinkling those seeds!

If you feel you want to create new positive experiences then visualise yourself planting seeds into the earth and coming to life! The majority of sad cases are predicted because we ourselves can not see a way out of the gloom that we have allowed ourselves to fall under. It’s easy to get caught up in a heavy rain cloud of repetitive thoughts but it is also important to remember that we have undoubtedly been in that rain cloud before and still managed to create happy experiences. Most of all, if you have been happy before and ecstatic about life then you sure can be again!
With love and light  x x x


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