On happiness and buying gifts

One of the more memorable life-experience gifts we gave our family is this simple, almost-spontaneous trip to the beach we took in December last year.

A few weeks back, I was watching a replay episode of  Oprah about Happiness where Goldie Hawn was guest. The book by Dan Buettner, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way, was being discussed.

As always, a lot of things struck me while watching the show. For instance, I learned that a study has actually proven that sitting quietly for just 10 minutes each day will improve one’s happiness. (I should try this.)

A Harvard University study has shown that spending just 10 minutes each day sitting and breathing—doing absolutely nothing—will increase your happiness.

Interestingly, one of the calmest and most contented persons I know is one who practices meditation. No, he hasn’t always been calm and contented. On the contrary, he used to have explosive temper. But today, it seems nothing agitates him. Well… except his ex-wife, hehe.

Here’s another one: Up to 50% of your happiness is genetic.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found that people can be born happy—up to 50 percent of your happiness is genetic. (40 percent can be learned and 10 percent is influenced by life circumstances.)

So, if you think you were not born happy, don’t despair. You can still work on the other 40%.

The other thing that stuck to me from that Oprah episode is this: Life experience gifts bring more long-lasting happiness than material gifts. Again, a study actually proved this.

Research from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Cornell University shows that spending money on a life experience produces longer-lasting happiness than spending money on material things; in fact, the impact of a new material thing only lasts about nine months.

It isn’t very hard to believe that life experience gifts can give more and longer-lasting happiness. But it’s something we easily forget when thinking of gifts to give to our loved ones.

It’s gift-giving season again, with Christmas just a few winks ahead (eeeeeeek). This is something to consider and think about when choosing what to give to our kids, spouses, families.

Another study though (not discussed in the show), qualifies that it depends on the outcome of the purchase.

…for negative purchases, bad experiences lead to more lasting unhappiness than do bad material purchases. Experiences ‘stay with’ us longer than material purchases, whether good or bad. They simply have more lasting power over our happiness.

If the life experience gift (e.g., dinner or movie date) was terrible and disastrous, it can have a longer lasting negative effect than if you chose a disastrous and terrible material gift. Hmmmmm..

So, will you buy xbox games and the latest gadgets for your kids, or go on a family vacation instead?

I’d say, with proper selection and planning of the life-experience gift, go for it.


Are you happy? Answer Oprah’s poll.

4 thoughts on “On happiness and buying gifts

  1. Nice post. I would love a combination of life experience and material gifts. Material gifts naman can be shared to create happy moments. Ang masakit lang sa life experience if the person eventually suffers from Alzheimer’s. Sayang ang memories. 🙁

  2. Hi Roche! Agree, the better material gifts are those that can be shared so others also benefit somehow… Re – Alzheimer’s.. At least on the bright side, the person was happy while the memory lasted. 🙂

  3. Kaya dapat may blog so that the even if the memories seemed lost, nandiyan pa din for others to enjoy and learn from 😀 Pero yung blog na may katuturan ha, hehe

  4. Hey iMomOnline, I like the positive message of this post! I think it’s important for moms to be happy so their kids (through the other 40%) can learn to be happy as well. 🙂

    And yes, life experiences such as quality time spent with the family, even by doing something as simple as watching a movie, can bring much more lasting joy than buying shoes. At least for me it’s true.

What do you think of this blog post? Leave a comment here!