Research Confirms It: More Stuff Won’t Make You Happy
For many, the transition to a New Year is a time for letting go of the things and actions that no longer serve us. A time to choose cauliflower over carbs…Kondo-ing over shopping…and asceticism over excess. But here at Tru Alchemy, we’re not huge fans of regret! So, instead of making empty New Year’s resolutions—we’ve decided to focus on New Year’s REVELATIONS. And instead of going without, we’re choosing instead to look within. Here’s what’s on our minds.
Living in a Material World
We’ve been thinking a lot about sustainable happiness lately and all the ways of doing and being that support it. Cornell psychology professor Thomas Gilovitch has been studying happiness for nearly two decades, and his unequivocal findings—that experiences bring us more and longer-lasting joy than material possessions—make a lot of sense to us.
The objects we buy in person might give us a quick hit of happiness in the moment, with diminishing returns the longer the object is in our possession. If we buy something online, we get a lower dose, but we get it twice: the moment of purchase and the moment of arrival. But ultimately, they’re just things! According to Gilovich, the Material Girl herself would derive greater pleasure from a night at the club than from her Gaultier bullet bra.
And experiences have another advantage, too. Unlike the season’s it-bag or your favorite influencer’s new Choos, we don’t tend to measure the value of our experiences against what our friends are doing. Your vacation is your vacation—steeped in your unique memories—whether it’s a weekend in Santa Fe or a week in San Sebastián.
Next Stop: Anticipation Nation
But to really understand why experiences fill our cups, we have to peek into the human mind. A study conducted by Gilovich and Harvard-trained psychologist Matthew Killingsworth found that our thoughts wander nearly 50% of the time—and when they do, they can end up in a dark and gloomy place. Left to its own devices, your brain might replay an uncomfortable conversation from last night…catastrophize about that big work presentation…or wonder whether the mild soreness in your throat is a cold or COVID.
These are NOT happy thoughts. But by contrast, if your mind has a pleasurable experience to focus on—whether to anticipate or to remember—it tends to set up camp in Happy Town. This 2014 study found that experiences deliver a triple-shot of joy: in the anticipation, the enjoyment of the actual event, and the memory of those good times. Win-win-win!
Through Rose-Colored Glasses
The 2014 study also dug a little deeper into the mysterious staying power of experience-driven happiness. While material goods are largely a solitary exploit, experiences can be shared before (what do you think Phoebe Bridgers will play at the LA show?), during (Eeee! “Savior Complex,” my favorite!), and after the fact (our matching skeleton onesies were EPIC!).
People—you included—don’t feel quite the same way about your new rancher hat. Because of the diminishing returns on material goods, our purchases become background noise after a while. Yet the opposite is true of experiences! Our memories of these only get sweeter over time; we further idealize the good times, and the disastrous ones become GREAT stories.
And there’s one final difference we thought was worth noting. Turns out, we don’t like to wait for material possessions—most Black Friday doorbuster footage confirms this—but we DO like waiting for experiences. Part of this, Gilovich and Killingsworth believe, has to do with the power of possibility. While we usually know exactly what we’ve bought, our experience could turn out any number of ways…and wondering is part of the pleasure.
Make Every Day an Experience
Okay, we’ve made the case for experiences over stuff. Does that mean all “stuff” is bad? Absolutely not! We also have drawers, closets, and cabinets full of things we love. But friends, this is exactly why we created the Tru Alchemy skincare brand: to transform your daily skincare routine into a relaxing, experiential ritual you anticipate with joy!
The frothy, fragrant lather of our Celestial Cleanser. The velvety glide of our Glow Serum. The shade-shifting magic of our Mystic Mask. And, of course, the promise of a radiant complexion that starts glowing immediately and continues to improve over time. If those things don’t make you think happy thoughts, we’re not sure we can be friends.
For more ways to nourish your skin and your soul, unleash your inner alchemist here.