Today I’d like to follow up on my earlier post this week on experiences vs material goods when it comes to happiness.
You can’t watch TV or go into a store without being reminded that the gift giving season is just around the corner. Maybe you already have a case of the “I wants” and I’m sure your children do. There are tantalizing things on sale everywhere and even previews of “Black Friday” deals on the net. I am not Scrooge or the Grinch. I love giving gifts and carefully consider each one. But is there a downside to gift-giving? Can we make the holidays more happy?
In an article published in the Global Mail, Psychotherapist Graham Music, of London, England and author of the book, The Good Life: Wellbeing and the New Science of Altruism, Selfishness and Immorality, argues that over-busy parents and out of control materialism results in meaner and more self-absorbed children. They lack empathy and are more concerned with what a person has than who a person is. I don’t think that Music is off base here. Studies show that as people become more materialistic, their relationships suffer. Think kids holed up in their rooms with computers all night and who look at their phones more than they look at their parents or siblings!
I am as guilty of this as the next guy. We want our children to be happy so we get them what they want. The problem, as I pointed out, is that things bring only momentary happiness. I would even go so far as to say that things drive people apart rather than bring them together.
So how do we tame the “thing monster”? Give the gift of experiences. I’m not saying go cold turkey and give no “thing” gifts but maybe consider some of this year’s gifts to be experiences. If you are going to spend the money anyway, why not do something that might create more lasting happiness and promote connectedness to others? Maybe an activity trip – like skiing or skating? Or maybe a Mom/Daughter pedicure or spa day? A day trip to a rock climbing wall or indoor skydiving venue or laser tag.
Thing gifts can be geared toward activities as well. Board games that can be played by the entire family vs a computer game that only one person can play is another option. Last year I bought myself a camera for Christmas and have used it to record visual reminders of the many wonderful experiences I had this year.
Instead of buying gifts for teachers and family members, how about making something – cookie mix in a mason jar, hand decorated picture frames or Christmas tree ornaments. Yes this might be more work than running to the store and picking out some pre-made items but the lesson will last a life-time.
And in the long run, you might be happier too!