The students reported feeling more alive and invigorated with the purchase of a life experience, said Howell.
The really good news from his study, given today's economic climate, is that life experience purchases don't have to be expensive to bring happiness, said Howell.
"A lot of the experiences were physical activities, like paying for park or beach admission," Howell noted.
However, Howell said that the findings probably don't apply to everyone. If you can't pay your mortgage, material things might increase your happiness more.
"As people drop closer to the poverty line, they tend to get more satisfaction with material things. The effect of purchasing life experiences probably becomes strong as you become more wealthy," he said.
"In this economy, being able to buy an item or an experience just for happiness is a luxury. I wonder for those who haven't had their basic needs met, if this would help as well?" said Katherine L. Muller, director of the cognitive behavior therapy program at Montefiore Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City.
"But if you do have disposable income, this could be something to consider, and you might want to make a conscious choice to try an experiential purchase," Muller said. "I think there's real value in the idea that memory is really the only thing you can take with you. And, social connectedness definitely creates more of an imprint, perhaps making the purchase more salient, because you shared it."
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