The ultimate gift idea: An experience
Although I’ve been blogging about the hooks of tech for a bit, I want to do a little pivot. I have some last-minute gift advice just in time for the holidays! When thinking of gifts to give, often it is better to give the gift of experience over material things. So, if you need a last-minute gift, consider checking online for tickets to musicals, plays, sporting events, comedy shows, or any other special event.
Why Things Don’t Provide Lasting Happiness
In general, we get more “bang for our buck” in life for having positive experiences over things. This is because we usually tend to adapt rather quickly to new things — like a watch, a handbag, or piece of jewelry. This is called the hedonic treadmill or hedonic adaptation. It’s the idea that we all have a happiness setpoint. Most positive and negative events affect us for a relatively brief amount of time before we return to our setpoint. This is especially true of material things. Certainly, there are exceptions to this idea that we return to our happiness setpoint. But even winning prizes and awards tends not to make us happy for too long before we return to our baseline. Humans are adaptive creatures, and that’s why we tend to adapt rather quickly to changes in our circumstances.
Happiness from Relationships
Yet, when we think of our best times in life, most of these have to do with positive experiences with other people. We are social creatures by nature, so it makes sense that happiness and well-being are a sort of “pay-off” for building and maintaining healthy social relationships. When we are positively engaged with others, we tend to feel pretty happy. Conversely, when we feel disengaged, alienated, alone, ostracized, bullied, or conflicted, we tend to feel pretty unhappy. The loss of a loved one is basically the worst thing that someone can experience. One can see how these powerful emotions all have to do with relationships in some form or fashion.
The Gift of Experience Over Things
When we give the gift of experiences, we are actually providing an opportunity to strengthen our social connections through having shared experiences. Shared experiences, in essence, form the glue that helps bind us to others in our relationships. So, if you are going to holiday shop and get tickets to an event as a gift, the gift of experiences shouldn’t be a solo ticket! For me, I like getting tickets to an event that I know that the whole family will enjoy. If you are buying for your partner, be sure to get tickets to an experience that he or she would want — NOT just what you want! 😉 As an added benefit, purchasing tickets to an event gives us something to look forward to. Interestingly, anticipating a positive event can sometimes make us happier than the event itself!
Technology Can Provide Experiences
Here’s a bit of a curveball. Our devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and video game consoles, provide access to both experiences and people. This is part of the reason they are so alluring. They provide a gateway for meeting our psychological needs. While this certainly has a place in our lives, the bottom line is that we evolved to meet our needs in person. So, we wouldn’t want to just provide gadgets as gifts with the idea that those gadgets provide experiences. Devices do provide experiences and are more than mere physical objects. But we must always keep in mind that our ultimate happiness resides within our in-person relationships. Providing the gift of experiences over things is a way for us to strengthen our bonds with others. These relationships are at the key to our happiness and, in reality, what makes the holidays so special.