Materialism can make us happy, if we do it right

You buy things to meet one or a combination of three psychological needs:

1. Identity expression (to reflect your true values)

2. Competence (to use or develop skills and knowledge)

3. Relatedness (to bring us close to others)

Meeting these needs helps you live a happier life. So, how can you best spend your money to make yourself happier?

It’s often said that an effective way to live a happier life is to spend your money on life experiences, not material items. As the story goes, you’ll be much happier if you go to a concert with friends than if you buy new clothes for yourself. But, as a new study has found, past research on this subject has ignored a third driver of consumption as it relates to happiness: “experiential products.”

Experiential products are items that “engage our senses”. These are items that enable intellectual, creative, and athletic achievement. Examples include: books, films, paintings, a pencil and notebook, a paintbrush and canvas, a basketball and net, and a musical instrument.

When you buy and use these experiential products, they are just as effective as the revered “life experience” as a means to live a happier life. These are material items, but you can use them to express yourself, to get smarter and healthier. The researchers found, consistent with past research, that while buying material objects like clothes and jewellery can be help you express yourself and connect with others, it is not as effective as buying an experiential product or life experience.

But experiential products and life experiences aren’t interchangeable. The study also found that while life experiences and experiential products are similar in their ability to meet identity expression needs, experiential products are better when it comes to becoming more competent, while life experiences are better at helping you connect with others. In other words, when you want to achieve something, buy the corresponding experiential product. If you’re lonely and want to be close to others, life experiences are the way to go.

In my opinion, money can’t buy complete happiness. But if we spend it properly, it can help. Don’t depend on sports cars and jewellery as your ticket to well-being. Instead, buy both life experiences and experiential products and you’ll be well on your way.

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To learn more, be sure to check out the study here. If you have any ideas or feedback you’d like to contribute, write a comment below or send me an email.

“It’s really important for technology to be humanized” - Cynthia Breazeal, Founder & CEO of Jibo

I think what’s important with the Jibo is that it’s a robot that is as human as it should be.

They haven’t created a robot that attempts to look, feel, move, and act like a human. Instead, it appears that the driving ethos behind Jibo is that while technology can improve our lives, it can best do so through human-centred design, to delicately balance the power of technology with true human needs.

At the core of this, I think, lies the question: what is the limitation of technology, not from a capabilities perspective, but from a human perspective?

When designing technology products, we shouldn’t start with what we “could” do technologically, but rather, with what we “should” do to meet a human need. I think the Jibo is a great example of the latter.

Buddhism is “The Middle Way” and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them

Spectacular exploration of the “Buddhist Economics” concept, first introduced by E.F. Schumacher. Read it here.

BuzzFeed offers a transfixing cultural snapshot of our times because of its pure distillation of this American urge: the manic-cheeriness-at-gunpoint feeling that saturates our culture. The BuzzFeed formula — not just personalizing pop trivia, but treating it as an inexorable element of our emotional makeup — feels like the natural outcome of several decades of plug-in room deodorizers and Toyotathons and hamburger-slinging clowns. Our responses are predetermined and mandatory. Each button suggests the appropriate emotional reaction. And there are no buttons inscribed with the word “sad” or “unsettling” or “melancholy.” Wisdom, in our modern world, may boil down to recognizing that LOL and fail and trashy and omg don’t actually represent different categories of human experience.

A brilliant piece from NY Times Magazine: 794 Ways in Which Buzzfeed Reminds Us of Impending Death

Storytelling & Empathy

Excerpt from a Brain Picking’s interview with Alexandra Horowitz, author of “On Looking: Eleven Walks With Expert Eyes”:

If you can just get somebody to talk about what they see when they’re walking down the street, they will almost inevitably be seeing something different than you. Because they are a different person, and there’s a whole background there. And, actually, I think that is a kind of writerly trick — it’s sitting in the restaurant and making up stories about the people who sit around you… being interested in [them] and being able to imagine, backwards, their stories. 

This is an important meditation on one of the most important characteristics of a great storyteller: the ability to live in someone else’s world, see it as they do, and to communicate that world in an honest, uplifting way. Great storytelling starts with empathy.