Top 5 Reasons Experiences Make Kids Happy

Published: 17th June 2018

As a parent our children’s health and happiness is our top priority, as the two things we most want for them. Finding ways to keep our kids happy shouldn’t be as difficult as it might seem. Some of us might feel that making our kids happy involves constantly giving them ‘stuff’ as we delight in watching their eyes light up when they’re handed another new toy. But we all know that happiness is fleeting and can’t really compare to the longer lasting benefits of doing an activity, or going on a holiday that stays with you for a lifetime.

So what does it take to make our children truly happy? We all know kids need to feel unconditional love from family and friends. But there is more to happiness than some of us might realise.

Professor Thomas Gilovich from Cornell University in New York has conducted four studies into happiness and the findings of his research might surprise you. Experiences form the basis of much of our happiness, both as kids and adults and based on the good Professor's research, we've summarised the top 5 reasons experiences make our kids' happier then 'stuff';

1. Creating childhood memories

Firstly, he believes some of us mistakenly think an experience is ‘gone in a flash.’ But the reality is that the experience is remembered long after the event, often for a lifetime. Take a moment to think about your favourite childhood memory...I'll wait :-)

I guarantee it was something you did, somewhere you went or someone you were with. NOT something you had, right? Right.

2. More sociable kids

There’s another major reason why experiences are more valuable than ‘stuff’: it’s because experiences are all about being social, with Professor Gilovich’s study finding that experiences are ‘the glue of our social lives’ . You usually experience something with a friend or family members and then share the story with others by posting photos on social media.

3. Experiences form part of their identity

Experiences form a bigger part of a person’s identity. When you meet someone new, you often share your interests with each other, to find common ground eg. I play the guitar, do yoga, surf, travelled through Africa etc We identify ourselves based on our experiences, rather than our possessions.

Experiences say more about us than the things we own. According to Professor Gilovich, experiences are a reflection of who we are, ‘the sum total of all our experiences.‘ As an added bonus, when we share these moments with our friends and/or families, it brings us closer together in ways that a material possession simply cannot.

4. Bonding over shared experiences

Possessions are often compared, who has the latest and greatest toy, often leading to someone feeling unsatisfied if their possession is considered the least favourable. On the other hand, kids bond over shared experiences with excitement, when they find they have had a similar experience, such as camping with their families.

5. New experiences build confidence

It's important to encourage our kids to try new things and support them, without pushing them. My youngest daughter Sophie had just turned 3yo when I took her to Treetops to do a ropes course. She was so excited in the lead up to it, but was overwhelmed when we arrived and she decided she wasn't up for it. I suggested she sit with me and watch her big sister instead, which she was happy with. After 10mins of watching her big sister, she decided that she wanted to give it a go (#FOMO) and went on to do the course several times.

It's an experience she talks about proudly several months on.

???????As for the material possessions, there’s a certain burst of happiness you get initially but kids (and adults!), quickly get used to whatever it is you bought and that ‘stuff’ often gets forgotten. The initial happiness is fleeting and cannot compare with the deep rooted happiness an experience shared with family and friends can bring.

So it seems research tells us that the secret to happiness for all of us, is that instead of collecting things, we focus on collecting experiences. We live in a world that’s increasingly leaning towards minimalism (less ‘stuff’) and memory creation. So maybe it’s time to think a little harder about what truly makes you and your family happy.

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