Why experiences are the best gifts

 Next time you’re thinking about what to get a friend for their birthday or a partner for Christmas, go for an experience the two of you can enjoy together. Research shows that experiences make us happier than material goods, and let’s face it, who needs any more “stuff” in there life?! So unless there’s something they deeply desire, an experience should be your first choice. Here’s more on why experiences trump things:

1. Greater satisfaction and excitement

Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, first found that experiences promote greater happiness and satisfaction than material goods. Experiences connect us and provide us with fond memories to look back on. Gilovich found even if the experiences are bad, like rain throughout a summer holiday, they still provide us with more happiness than a material good as they give us a funny story to share with others. 

Amit Kumar built on this research, and found spending money on experiences also provides us with longer lasting happiness. He found people get more excited when anticipating an experience compared to a material good. It’s the fleeting nature of experiences that makes us appreciate them much more than an item we are constantly exposed to. 

2. We already have far more stuff than we need

UCLA have named contemporary society the most materially rich society in global history (BBC). Even in the smallest house they studied (980 sq ft), they found 2,260 items in just the 2 bedrooms and living room – and this doesn’t include anything found in cupboards or drawers! They also found that 3/4 families no longer have space for a car in their garage because it’s filled with all of their stuff! James Wallman cleverly coined our obsession with material goods “Stuffocation” and we truly are stuffed.

We’re especially bad when it comes to clothing. The average British woman buys 59 items of clothing a year and has double the amount she had in 1980. This is a waste of both our money and time. 

A study by M&S found we only wear 44% of the items sitting in our wardrobe regularly (Oxfam). 3.6 million clothes are left unworn in Britain alone, an average of 57 items a person with 16 only ever being worn once and 11 still with tags. They found 1 in every 20 has 50 items with the tags still firmly attached – think how much 50 items would’ve cost, you could afford that long weekend in Paris or membership to the fancy gym down the road! 

And all this wardrobe cramming is also causing us unnecessary stress in the morning. Women spend on average 17 minutes a day choosing their outfit – that’s 4 whole days a year! And this morning madness sees 1 in 10 of us arriving late for work because we were struggling with what to wear that morning! So, don’t buy your friend/relative/partner another item that will just sit in a cupboard and clutter their brain as well as their room, take them out for an experience they will remember.

You might be thinking “ok that’s great but what on earth can I buy them?!”, well here’s a few ideas:

1. Sporting activity 

My friend Tash recently look me to an aerial hoops class for my birthday at GymBox in OldStreet with Flying Fantastic and it was amazing! We were both seriously rubbish and could barely make it onto the hoop, but it was definitely an experience to remember and laugh at! 
If acrobatics aren’t really your thing, what about a rooftop yoga class, a wall climbing pass or zorbing?  

GymBox aerial hoops class with Flying Fantastic 

2. Masterclasses

What about a cookery class? Paying for your partner to learn to cook you a delicious new dish could never be a bad idea. Le Pain Quotidien now offer several vegan baking classes to help you create cruelty-free sweet treats with a lower environmental impact. Or try a sushi or dim sum class with the London Cookery School. I took Ollie at the start of the year and we learnt how to make 4 different types of sushi roll. The instructor was really nice and provided lots of veggie-friendly ingredients so that we could make enough rolls to last us the next few days!   

For beauty lovers, what about a natural make up making masterclass? Midas Touch Crafts in London are currently running workshops where you will make 5 100% natural items of make up to take home with you, as well as learning the basics on how to best produce your own products (find out more here).  

 Photo source: Groupon

3. Go on a trip

I don’t know anyone that doesn’t love a holiday, and there are loads of great, environmentally-conscious hotels to make home for a long weekend. Scarlet Hotel in Cornwall is known for its beautiful setting amongst the Cornish cliffs and its commitment to operating in a more sustainable manner; having been awarded both a gold grading from Green Tourism and nominated for a highly commended Gold Star award. The Green Park Hotel in Pitlochry is another well-known British hotel with green initiatives, offering complimentary transport to and from local stations to encourage guests to use public transport, purchasing local, organic, fair trade and recycled products, and reusing waste for compost to feed the hotel’s gardens. Use Green Traveller to find an Eco-friendly hotel at your destination of choice.   

 Photo source: Scarlet hotel

4. Take in a show

Or you could take them to a theatre production, circus performance, ballet or opera. My friend Rose recently took me to see Swan Lake for my birthday and it was incredible – I’ve taken up barre classes since in an attempt to bring out my inner ballerina! Cirque du Soleil is also seriously worth watching, I took Ollie there a few years ago and we still talk about how impressive it was.   Kooza, Cirque du Soleil

Do you have any other ideas for experience gifts? Let me know by commenting below!!

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