The Happiness Project – What makes you really happy?


Do you think buying that new IPhone will make you happy? Or that big independent house in a posh locality will make you happier? The brand new Mercedes car maybe your definition of happiness.

Think again……you might be wrong. A recent study conducted at the Cornell University by Dr. Thomas Gilovich suggests “Rather than buying the latest iPhone or a new BMW, you’ll get more happiness spending money on experiences like going to art exhibits, doing outdoor activities, learning a new skill, or traveling”.

Surprising, isn’t it?

There’s a very logical assumption that most people make when spending their money: that because a physical object will last longer, it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience like a concert or vacation. According to recent research, it turns out that assumption is completely wrong.

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” says Dr. Thomas Gilovich. We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”


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This study got me thinking and I tried to recall my happy moments. I was astonished at the results. Yes, my happiest moments were when I was experiencing something new outside and not watching my expensive smart TV lazing on my couch! I thought of sharing my enriching happy experiences to provide you with some thoughts on happiness.

The first of which has to be the Broadway Show – The Lion King! Words cannot explain the ecstatic feeling I got when the show started with Rafique singing the ‘circle of life’ in piercing voice and humans disguised as animals walked through the audience towards the stage. There were huge elephants, deers, lions, long necked giraffes and monkeys. One could not believe that they were humans in costumes, the creativity and the make up was so authentic. I got goosebumps hearing to the song and gazing at those animals. I was awes truck with the entire package – the stage, the characters, the costumes, the light effect, the music and the overall experience. I laughed at Zazu’s jokes, smiled at Simba’s innocence, held my husband’s hand as Simba and Nala romanced and cried like a baby when Mufasa died. I was hooked to my seat for the entire show. When I came out of the theatre that day, I was a happier person with this bundle of enriching experience with me.

Lion King

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The second experience that really impacted me was our visit to the Niagara Falls. It was night when we first saw the falls. The first view of the falls – I was so mesmerized and captivated looking at the enormity of these falls. No photo, no video ever seen by me matched the thrill I experienced seeing the falls by my own eyes! The falls were a huge spread of water falling down. The water on the top was gushing and pushing with full force and energy. The moment it fell down, it became steady, like a monk. Nature never fails to surprise me! The same water in two different forms – at the top and at the bottom. At night, you see the falls dancing in the lights. I was overwhelmed with the vastness of the falls and I literally sat near the falls on the bench in a meditative mode enjoying the rhythm of the water and feeling myself very lucky to have seen this beauty alive.


Have I been able to inspire you that experiences indeed make us happier than material possessions? If not, imagine yourself sitting in a wooden chair at the age of 80 ruminating about your life – what do you think will you remember then? Will you remember the ridiculously expensive Fossil watch you bought for yourself or will you remember the trip which you took with your family to Leh Ladakh?

If you spend on experiences today, I am sure you will sit back later and looking over the life you lived you will say to yourself “Wow, wow and wow”. So stop running behind materialistic pleasures and instead invest in experiences for ‘real’ happiness!

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