Researchers at Cornell University found that experiences make people happier than possessions, both when looking forward to an experience and in reflecting back on it later.
Receiving presents is nice but giving them is even better. So forget the must-have gadget, latest game or fashionable frivolity. Don’t buy gifts for their novelty, glamour or snob value but try to choose things that have meaning for the recipient. The ‘wow’ factor is fleeting, people generally prefer a gift they can use and enjoy throughout the entire time that they own it.
Think about why you are giving the gift and be sure that you focus on what will give most joy to the gift-receiver. Giving is not about what you want, not about making yourself look good and generous, not playing Lord or Lady Bountiful, but about pleasing the recipient.
The best things in life
The 10Eighty Christmas party, the lights and store windows, the good cheer in the street and the scent of roasting chestnuts are stress-free pleasures of the season. Happiness is about more than having things.
Bear in mind that 10% of all Christmas gifts are returned, the superfluous scarf, wrongly sized sweater or glossy cookbook that is never opened, don’t provide much real joy; or, at least, not until some happy bargain hunter finds them in the charity shop going for a song!
Researchers at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School found that recipients of experiential gifts feel significantly more connected to the gift giver than do recipients of material gifts. The emotional connection is evoked whether the recipient enjoyed the experience alone or shared it with the gift-giver. The gift experience connects and strengthens the emotional relationship between the two.
Think before you give
The ‘must-have’ item may afford the recipient a short-lived moment happiness in their life; the experiential gift can make that person happier with their life because of positive emotional connections created.
Psychological research has shown that people are not nearly as talented at knowing the preferences of others as they think they are (e.g. Hsee and Weber 1997). Put some thought into gift-giving, it may be better, for instance, to agree not to exchange gifts in favour of meeting up and having for fun. It’s those emotional connections again!
Remember, too, that recipients don’t usually judge thoughtfulness by the price of the gift. IF they do then you need new friends!