The Key to Happiness? Experiences, Not Things.

Happiness comes from experience. I don’t mean it’s something you must learn over time — it’s something you do. We all want to feel good, and often we pursue the bright, shiny object in search of happiness. Our culture gives us the message that more money buys more happiness. Buy a bigger, better TV with surround sound, upgrade to the latest must-have tech toy, bring home a new car. These things help ward off the imminent sense of FOMO (fear of missing out). We want what we want, and we want it now.

Are things what we really want?

So we get more stuff. But are things what we really want? Would you rather have a Lexus LC500 coupe or be happy? I know. You want both. Truth is that new car will bring a surge of instant gratification, pride, and Wow! factor. But the intoxicating thrill fades, and we find ourselves searching for the next new thing. Imagine yourself a few years down the road. What will stand out more in your mind, bringing the car home or the time you and your sweetheart drove it down the coast, shared a bottle of pinot on the beach, and watched the sunset?

About happiness

What makes us happy? This question has led to some fascinating research. It turns out happiness doesn’t come from what we own, but from what we experience — and the experience lasts a whole lot longer. Researchers Gilovich and Kumar have shown that once basic needs are met, buying more things doesn’t add to our happiness.

We know experiences feed us, but still we are drawn — or pulled — to purchase things. Pchelin and Howell make the point that people prefer experiences but spend money on things because they think doing so is a wiser investment. Things are concrete. They give you proof of what you bought. They look like a better value. But the question becomes: what are our investment goals? The old saying “you can’t take it with you” rings true.

It’s about the experience

Traveling, outdoor experiences, shared moments — you can’t put them in your living room or garage, but studies show they have more lasting happiness value. We are social creatures by nature and we like to share. It’s the shared connection that pushes the needle. Not only do you experience something with another person, later you get to talk about it with other people. Going on about your new car may not be welcome conversation, but we all love to share our stories about what we did last weekend or where we went over summer vacation.

An experience very rarely leads to buyer’s remorse. If things go wrong and a product you bought fails to perform, you’re stuck with a concrete reminder. On the other hand, when a tsunami hits the week of your long-anticipated Hawaiian vacation, it makes for a fun story. Unlike purchasing a thing, purchasing an experience leads to treasured memories. So, research — and intuition — tell us that it’s the experience not the thing that brings more lasting happiness. Maybe you dream of owning an island vacation home.

In a Forbes.com article, The Secret to Happiness? Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things, Ilya Posin suggests a practical alternative: Rent what you would buy and use your leftover cash for creating experience. It makes more sense to rent a vacation home than buy one. You don’t have the hassle of repairs and maintenance. Same goes for RVs, boats, horses, and so much more. When you rent, you just show up and have a great experience!

Part of the reason experiences pay off more than purchases is that we look forward to them more. Buying something you’ve wanted for a while is cool, but the outcome is predictable. While waiting for an experience, however, you ponder how it might turn out. The possibilities are as broad as your imagination — fun, romance, adventure. You get to roll the idea around in your mind and savor it. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next experience now. Consider a getaway to the Sonoma/Napa Wine Country. Gather your family and friends, choose one of The Wine Stay’s deluxe vacation rentals and notice how sharing an experience brings you the happiness you’ve been looking for.

The Wine Stay offers luxury vacation rentals in Sonoma and Napa. And to elevate your wine country vacation experience, check out our personalized guest services. Whether it’s an intimate dinner prepared by a 5-star chef, personal yoga instruction, or a professional massage, we can arrange for you to enjoy it in the privacy of your Healdsburg vacation rental! Want to go wine tasting in Healdsburg, Dry Creek or Alexander valleys? Let our in-house sommelier customize a wine tasting tour just for you. The Wine Stay team is dedicated to making your California Wine Country vacation unforgettable!