Why do we head for the shops with such determination as soon as we have money in our wallets? With every new purchase we feel a little happier, but a few days later that satisfaction is often gone without a trace. I decided it was time to get to grips with this problem once and for all, and to make sense of how we can all find true happiness.
It turns out that the main impediment to happiness is adaptation. As soon as something we’ve bought becomes ordinary and unexciting, the level of life satisfaction we feel falls, and we’re forced to search around for the next purchase. This process is repeated again and again.
However, research carried out at Cornell University has found a way to break this damaging cycle. Psychology professor Thomas Gilovich has shown that we experience the same increase in happiness when we buy something we want and when we go traveling. But — and here’s the most important point — the amount of happiness we derive from our purchase falls over time, whereas the memories of our traveling experience continue to supply us with happiness hormones for much longer.
Going to various kinds of unusual events, going on trips, learning new skills, even extreme sport — all of these are an ideal source of happiness for each and every one of us. A new device or even a new car will eventually become just another ordinary object we own, or will otherwise become old and outdated. Every new memory, on the other hand, becomes a real source of joy that stays with us for our whole lives.