Sometimes it feels like life is one big advertisement, with a million different messages trying to convince us we need more stuff. Our daily lives are bombarded from waking to sleep with advertising in one form or another. All of these messages are designed to tug on the very human trait of always wanting more. Advertisers promise we will find happiness in their products and promote the idea that having more stuff will bring us fulfilment! But, does having all this stuff really make us happy? Looking around at the world today, it doesn’t seem to be the case.
We all know that the joy of buying something new is only fleeting. And, that a new phone is not going to fulfil us in any meaningful way. Yet, we build up anticipation for a new item, and when we finally buy it, we do feel joy. But, after a short time, we get used to having this item and it doesn’t bring us the same excitement as the next new item we desire promises to. This pattern is a normal human trait called hedonic adaption. Basically, we get bored with new things, and the joy they bring can quickly reduce to nothing. By falling for advertisements that promise us happiness comes with more stuff, we are set to remain in a negative spiral of expecting that stuff to make us happy, and being disappointed when it doesn’t. Filling our lives with everything we desire will not bring us fulfilment or happiness over the long-term.
Luckily, hedonic adaption doesn’t affect experiences. We are happier when we think about a great experience we have had or when we look with anticipation towards a new one. This could be a holiday, a catch-up coffee with a friend or working on a project we are excited about with a co-worker. When we share these experiences with others, we can further increase our sense of happiness. And, this happiness lasts longer than the joy of a new item. The best part about sharing experiences is that both the giver and the recipient end up with more happiness and will continue to look back on the experience with joy. Think of the joy when you gave something of yourself to someone. The gift of time to a child or friend is always more cherished than a store-bought gift. Cooking a special meal for your partner may be more treasured than a box of chocolates.
Next time we feel that tugging desire to buy something new, perhaps we could instead consider doing something kind for someone else and seek happiness in doing rather than in having. Here are three easy ways to create an experience with someone else that could bring you both joy in less than five minutes:
Build someone up.
Encourage someone in your life who has a great idea or is doing a fantastic job. Let them know you think they are great. Be a positive influence and use your words to build someone up.
Take time to listen with full attention.
Give someone your full attention for a few minutes. Actively listen to them instead of only half hearing what they are saying while being busy thinking of something else.
Pay it forward with a five-minute favour.
We love this idea of performing a quick and easy favour for someone. It can be as simple as an introduction to someone who can assist them, sharing an article or idea that we think might be interesting to them or just sharing and commenting favourably on one of their social media posts.
We love the idea of making it a priority to do more, rather than have more. Focusing our time and energy on doing something for others can bring us much more satisfaction in life than the latest new thing ever can.
We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we giveWinston Churchill