We know from personal experience, and research proves that experiences bring more joy than stuff.
“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University who has been studying the question of money and happiness for over two decades. (in this article)
Even if you get excited about purchasing something new, that excitement wears off quickly. Experiences provide the anticipation of participating, genuine connection with others, and memories that last.
1. Have adventures
My friend Sam from Everyday Adventures organizes city scavenger hunts, and other amazing adventures for people around the world. I participated in her Chicago scavenger hunt and it was a blast. Organize your own Amazing Race like scavenger hunt for your neighborhood or organization.
2. Try Facebook Live
Learn something new or connect with an author/blogger/friend via live video on Facebook. I do my own videos here: https://www.facebook.com/bemorewithlessdotcom/.
3. Take a walk
I wrote about my habits earlier this week, and one of them is walking 5 miles a day. I don’t always walk 5 miles at once, and like to get out a few times a day to walk in the city or on a hiking trail. I see new things every time I walk, even if I take the same route. After taking a walk, I’m always exhilarated by that very simple experience.
Even if it’s only for a few minutes, give yourself the gift of taking a walk, noticing your surroundings, and getting outside.
4. Start a challenge
I love experimenting with a good challenge. Create your own or try one of these for a unique experience:
5. See the World
No matter where you are, really see the world. If you are traveling for business, take an extra day in the city you are visiting and explore. When you are traveling for fun, pack lightly and trade the shopping and souvenirs for adventures, people watching, and getting to know your destination. Even if you don’t leave your own backyard, make it a point to really see the world, your world. It’s an experience we often take for granted, but it has so much to offer.
6. Be Creative
Making things is an experience like no other. When you express yourself in a creative way everything changes. Writing, dancing, and photography or building things, and organizing events, are a few ways to be creative and there are other ways too. Start a blog, recommend standing meetings at work, create a collection to share on Instagram, or share an image every day.
Entertain your crazy ideas and give yourself the gift of being creative.
7. Learn something new
Take a local cooking class, or a college course you are interested in. Try an ecourse and learn on your own time. Learn how to tell stories with your photos. Study a new language, learn how use a new social media platform or something else that interests you. Be curious and approach your experiences with a beginner’s mind.
8. Create a meal you can linger over
Even though I usually eat the same few things a week, I like making dinner a beautiful experience when I try a new recipe. Music, fresh ingredients, and wonderful company can make an ordinary meal into a relaxing evening and wonderful memories. I like to keep my recipes simple, and usually start my search for something delicious at Foodie Crush.
Why? Because the creator of Foodie Crush is my good friend Heidi and anytime she cooks for me, I have to go home and try the dish myself. She is that good. She also recommends awesome recipes from fellow food bloggers. Oh, and she’s an amazing person/mom/wife/friend/writer/photographer. Can you tell how much I love her?
9. Make friends
Experiences bring more joy than stuff, but good people make those experiences and your entire life experience rich. Cultivate your best relationships and be open to meeting new people. I know this can be challenging. People bring out the best and worst in us. They take our time, energy, love and attention, but when we connect with the right people, they do it in the best possible way, and give us permission to take back.
Asking for help, being vulnerable and trusting people might be hard for you (I know it is for me), but give people the chance to lift you up … and then lift them right back.
Use the shared experience of contributing to something meaningful to not only support a great cause, but for a greater sense of purpose and connection to others who care about similar causes. Every year, my sister-in-law, Anne Marie organizes a bike team and raises funds for MS research.
I was diagnosed with MS in 2006 and I’m so grateful she started Team TLC (Team who Loves Courtney). I rode 100km with the team one year and remember crying as I crossed the finish line. It was a meaningful experience for me and my family.
These 10 ideas only scratch the surface of the experiences available to you. The next time you get excited about the latest and greatest thing at the mall, shift your attention to experiences, people, and love.
E.E. Cummings said, “Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” and our life experiences can help us to believe in ourselves.
It’s never too late to be intentional about crafting a life you are excited to live.