Gratitude is a powerful feeling that has the ability to shift your entire perspective. Research has found that gratitude can increase well-being and bring about higher life satisfaction, perhaps due to its ability to push out feelings of envy and depression.
With the holidays right around the corner, you may be wondering how to impart this positive feeling to the ones you love. As it turns out, you may be able spread gratitude simply by choosing to gift an experience instead of a material item.
Researchers from Cornell University recently delved into consumer behavior to find out which gifts trigger the highest levels of gratitude. What they found was that things often pale in comparison to experiences.
Doing Vs. Having
The emotional benefits of receiving an experience are plentiful and lasting, according to new research. Our feelings of gratitude soar when thinking about what we’ve done, but thinking about what we have doesn’t lead to the same cascade of positive emotions.
“Think about how you feel when you come home from buying something new,” explained Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University and co-author of the study.
“You might say, ‘this new couch is cool,’ but you’re less likely to say ‘I’m so grateful for that set of shelves.’ But when you come home from a vacation, you are likely to say, ‘I feel so blessed I got to go.’ People say positive things about the stuff they bought, but they don’t usually express gratitude for it — or they don’t express it as often as they do for their experiences.”
Gratitude causes generosity
What's more, the researchers found that experiences can have a snowball effect. In a study involving an economic game, they found that participants who thought about an experiential purchase behaved more altruistically toward others. The same behavior didn’t occur when participants thought about a possession.
The link between gratitude and altruistic behavior “suggests that the benefits of experiential consumption apply not only to the consumers of those purchases themselves, but to others in their orbit as well,” said Amit Kumar, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago and co-author of the paper.
The study has been published online in the journal Emotion.