The Good Daily

Are you experienced?

We’ve noticed a trend of people forgoing the usual gift-wrapped presents, instead sharing travel or giving other types of ‘doing’ experiences instead.  Several people in our office stated that they haven’t bought their partner actual things in years, instead buying holidays or fancy meal experiences instead.

Now science tells us that this type of gift giving is in fact, much better for our overall wellbeing. Research conducted by Cornell University showed that gratitude generated by an experience-type of gift creates a longer lasting positive health benefit.

This is because gratitude is proven to be one of the most beneficial of emotions - being associated with; better health, enhanced social connection, better sleep quality, lowered depressions, decreased envy increased purpose and meaning in life and higher life satisfaction. Phew!

The study found that buying an experience, like a trip or a massage, resulted in higher levels of gratitude than buying usual things like books or clothing. One of the researchers explains “People say positive things about the stuff they bought, but they don't usually express gratitude for it – or they don't express it as often as they do for their experiences."

It seems counterintuitive, but they suggest you’ll get more pleasure from a one-time-only experience than a possession that will last forever. This may be simply because experiences become a part of your identity.

So what does this tell us about the benefits of gift-giving for work and home? Well, the study showed that people who received or gave experience-type gifts were then more likely to think more altruistically and positively when thinking of others. The power of the experience impacted their sense of wellbeing so much that they were then increasingly more generous towards others having experienced genuine gratitude. That ‘knock-on effect’ of such positive behaviour is staggering to consider, with the researchers suggesting that a generational shift to a less materialistic driven gift culture may be an overwhelmingly positive attribute for society and public policy.

Given that Millennials are said to be at the root of the increased trend of experience giving, this may be a very real possibility for the future.

The Eventbrite study said “...this generation not only highly values experiences, but they are increasingly spending time and money on them: from concerts and social events to athletic pursuits, to cultural experiences and events of all kinds. For this group, happiness isn’t as focused on possessions or career status. Living a meaningful, happy life is about creating, sharing and capturing memories earned through experiences that span the spectrum of life’s opportunities.”

And that sounds like a positive and thriving state of wellbeing that has a cultural impact for us all.

What do you think about experience gifts? Do you prefer them to give and recieve? Share your experience on Twitter at @Gooddayatwork



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MD of Cary Cooper's business psychology firm, Robertson Cooper - for all things wellbeing, engagement and resilience at work.

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Professor Cary Cooper, Director and Founder of Robertson Cooper Ltd, Distinguished Professor of Organizational Psychology and Health at Manchester Business School.

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