Buying happiness

Really nice column by David Brooks on the superior value of enjoyable and friendly human contact over expensive things and by spending more to be on the other side of this “Haimish line” is not so good, e.g.,

Hotels can exist on either side of the Haimish Line. You’ll find multiple generations at a Comfort Inn breakfast area, and people are likely to exchange pleasantries over the waffle machine. At a four-star hotel’s breakfast dining room, people are quietly answering e-mail on their phones.

Nothing like good conversation while making your own waffles :-).  He ends, with this great bit of advice:

I can’t resist concluding this column with some kernels of consumption advice accumulated by the prominent scholars Elizabeth W. Dunn, Daniel T. Gilbert and Timothy D. Wilson. Surveying the vast literature of happiness research, they suggest: Buy experiences instead of things; buy many small pleasures instead of a few big ones; pay now for things you can look forward to and enjoy later.

I went and read the original research.  Very accessible and very interesting.  Really worth a 5-10 minute skim.  A few thoughts on this– definitely buy experiences over things.  When I think back on my childhood I have great remembrances of great beach trips and a variety of trips to New England, California, and various other places with my dad.  As far as things, getting that Atari 400 when I was 11 remains my favorite Christmas gift ever, but otherwise cannot recall any particular things.  I regret that the logistical difficulty of my 9-month old to 11 year old plus 1 special needs brood means we don’t do as many experiences as I’d like for them.  I think I’ll try harder.  They also find that spending money on others really works.  Truly is better to give than to receive.   I’d paste the 8 key recommendations, but its PDF, so you’ll just have to check it out yourself.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Buying happiness

  1. Travis Hargett says:

    That’s gotta be one of the most useful academic studies I’ve read. I’ll be printing out those 8 points.

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