Buying the newest smartphone, tablet, or TV seems to be a rite of passage these days, as if we almost have no choice but to buy the latest and greatest. The same thing goes with buying a bigger house, a sweeter car, and a bunch of other material possessions. It’s like we just can’t stop until we have all the things we’re “supposed” to have.

The question is, why are we even doing this? Is it necessary? Does it really make us happier? Consider this: If you could spend the weekend on a kayaking adventure somewhere beautiful like Central Oregon, would you put off buying a new gadget? What would put a bigger smile on your face for longer?

Several scientific studies say that not only do more things not equal happiness but also that rather than “stuff,” what really make us happier are experiences:

  • A San Francisco State University study found that people enjoy greater wellbeing from life experiences, and consider them a better use of money.
  • A Cornell University study showed that when people buy material possessions, they seem exciting at first, but people quickly adapt to them. Experiences, on the other hand, become a part of us and change us, greatly impacting our overall happiness for the long term.
  • A University of Colorado at Boulder study says that people find more lasting happiness through experiences than things.

It’s important to realize that most of us have only a finite amount of money. After the basics are taken care of, we get to choose how to spend that money. How will you spend yours? What will give you lasting happiness?

This year, rather than buying the next new gadget or cool toy, think about an adventure somewhere new and exciting.

P.S. Central Oregon is a great stop if you want to experience all that nature has to offer; not to mention it’s relatively easy to get to, has a million options for all interests, and has reasonably priced lodging and dining.

Consider the following:

An Experience Lasts Forever. Sure, that cool new electronic is fun, but in a year or two, it’ll be broken or otherwise obsolete and go the way of the trash can. An experience — such as spending the weekend in Central Oregon hiking, dining out, and going to a water park — will stay with you long after you come home.

An Experience Says Something About You. What kind of experience you decide to have is a testament to who you are as an individual. If you’re more on the wild side, you can book an adventure like kayaking or even a helicopter ride. If rest and relaxation are more your thing, then a quiet stroll through nature is an experience that exceeds the price of mere “stuff.” Does your gadget say anything about you?

An Experience Refuels You. You work hard all week, and you feel drained — exhausted, depleted, uninspired. The weekend could be filled with lying around the house, binging on Netflix or playing games on your phone. But come Monday morning, you wouldn’t feel much different. Those gadgets or “things” you own don’t refuel you. An experience can do that! If you do like the comforts of home while you’re away, a vacation rental is perfect.

An Experience Changes You. If you live in the city, an experience in natural surroundings is not only a nice change of pace, it can also change you. While in the city, you focus on traffic, where to shop, all your errands, etc. But in the open expanses, with rivers, lakes, mountains, and trees, you stop and appreciate. Your perspective gets shifted to what is truly important in life: family, nature, happiness. Sure, you gotta earn a living. But rather than spend more of that hard-earned money on more stuff, spend it on what truly matters.

An Experience Brings You Closer to Loved Ones. How many nights after work are you and your family glued to devices? It’s become the norm in our technology world. It’s now the way we tend to unwind and socialize. But who are you socializing with, and is doing it through a screen enough? Rather than spend your time in such a disconnected way, try an experience instead. Take your family out and do something together. Create memories. Bond while doing something you love outdoors. When you look back in a few years, what will you all remember most? The games you played online or those times you shared an experience?

In the end, it’s all about your quality of life and of those around you. The human experience is filled with joy and happiness and newness and fulfillment, if we let it. It’s all about our priorities and how we choose to spend our money and our time. What will your next experience be?

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