Welcome Home: "Experience" the Holidays
In a broadcast originally aired on Feb. 13, 2009, NPR’s Ira Flatow interviewed Dr. Ryan Howell, Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University. Dr Howell conducted a study using 154, ethnically-diverse, participants, ages 19-50. The group was asked to think of a time during the previous three months, when they had used money to make themselves happy. Half the subjects were asked to think of a purchase they made to bring about happiness; the other half were asked to think about an experience that was designed to make them happy…eating out, going to a concert, or traveling, for instance. Then, the whole group was asked to write about their purchase, describing their feelings. This was followed by a series of questions about how their purchase, whether a material thing, or an experience, satisfied their psychological needs and whether the purchase, in fact, increased their happiness, and/or other people’s happiness.Of course the findings were that participants who were in the experiential group stated that they were more likely to consider their money well-spent. They were happier, not just at the time of the purchase, but also long afterward, the experience or its memory was still making them happier. Further, this group said that they had an increased sense of vitality, an increased sense of vigor, and and they also had a sense of being connected with their social world. Dr. Howell includes in his conclusions that while a person might buy a pair of shoes and think they are really nice and feel happy about them, this feeling only lasts until they see a nicer pair of shoes on a friend. But people’s experiences – their vacations and their times out with their friends isn’t susceptible to social comparisons. In fact, the memory of a good experience tends to amplify its happiness, the more often it is recounted. You know, like fish stories tend to make the fish bigger, and bigger… the more often they are told?Think about things you’ve received as gifts, vs. things you’ve done – either with friends or family – during the holidays. My fondest memories are of walking through the old shopping district of Denver as a child, to see the various animated windows at May D&F, the Denver, and Neustetters; or going with the entire family to the Buell to see the Rockettes, or our yearly tour of neighborhoods, both downtown and in the suburbs, to see everybody’s holiday lights. Sure, I was lucky to receive lots of nice things, as well, but the events are certainly more memorable. A visit to the Botanic Gardens or the Denver Zoo is always fun — during the holidays, you can go at night and enjoy carolers, hot chocolate, kettle corn, and a tour through the venue in the dark, illuminated only by the fantastic lighting displays. Some animals at the zoo ONLY come out at night…! The NEW Frisco Adventure Park Tubing Hill opens on December 11, and I think a few hours with my family and friends, zipping down the 600 foot lanes for an hour or two sounds like just the kind of gift that will be remembered long after the luster of the new socks and underwear under the tree fades! All the details are at http://www.townoffrisco.com/adventure-park … maybe I’ll see you there!Welcome Home is written by Butch Elich & Paula Parker. Ssearch for them by name on Google, Twitter, or Facebook.
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