Economic and behavioural science tells us that having an experience may actually make you more happy than buying the latest new gadget or pair of shoes. I know many aren’t convinced, but the science is seriously solid. Experiences are really where it’s at.
1. We Get More Excited About Future Experiences
It turns out that anticipation is a big component of how much gratification or pleasure we get. A large scale psychological study (humorously called Waiting for Merlot in a nod to Beckett) confirms that the anticipation is part of the thrill, and actually, this excitement is greater for experiences than it is for material gifts.
McConks has been part of two amazing experiences this year, one vicariously lived through our boards, and the other attended in person.
These experiences are rather out there, and admittedly most won’t be giving a gift of this value to a loved one. But just in case you have enough cash burning a hole in your pocket, these experiences will really make the best gift!
So when it comes gift giving why are we so sceptical about giving experiences? Why don’t we give more experiences overall? Why do we still buy deodorants, moisturisers and shaving foam that just stay in the bathroom cupboard until regifted. Or another box of chocoloates for Gran, or socks for Grandad?
The research on presents and enjoyment reveals something really interesting; we always believe that material things will make family and friends happier, even though when ranked side by side against experiences, experiences always rank higher for pleasure and happy memories. What causes this collective amnesia of the positive feelings from experiences? The cause is probably related to the media constantly reinforcing the message that the ‘Christmas experience’ involves unwrapping material gifts in front a roaring log fire.
But we can’t blame it all on advertisers. So what is the science behind this? And what are the best experiences?
As a SUP company, you won’t be surprised to know that we think paddle and board sports are the very best experiences to give. With experiences that range from being at one with nature in inspiring coastal environments, through to adrenalin fuelled whitewater surf fun, paddle sports have something for everyone.
The links we’ve shared below are for some of our partners and friends, and companies that we guarantee will give your family and friends memories to treasure for ever. And may even launch a lifetime’s passion in standup paddleboarding. And with standup paddleboarding being such an accessible and social water sport, may create a whole new circle of close friends.
GoXperience the Croatian islands
Experience the Croatian Adriatic onboard a SeaGib 51 spacious yacht, pilotted by the master seaman Nathan, and with SUP instructors to guide you on unique adventures
2. We Get More Value From Experiences Overall
Another study a couple of years ago compared how much pleasure people thought they would get after an experience gift and after a material gift, with the amount of pleasure they actually recorded. The study found that the majority of people consistently think they will get more pleasure from material gifts than they actually experience, and they underestimate the amount of pleasure they will get from experience gifts. This is called economic forecasting, and it turns out to be something that most people are really bad at. But that shouldn’t surprise us given that the experts seem to struggle with it!Interestingly if people are asked which gives better value for money our of material gifts or experiences, they will choose material gifts. If they are asked which will give more pleasure per pound spent, they choose experiences. And the reason for this is because we typically underestimate the value of memories when we do our mental calculations of value.
3. Experiences Give You More Social Connection
Experiences tend to happen in groups or pairs. And we’re a social species. Even the most introverted of people actually need community contact and social experiences, even if they sometimes find them uncomfortable. And the vast majority of us get great pleasure out of the shared learning or shared experiences, especially if these shared experiences are with family, friends, or like minded people who become new friends.
Studies also show that the best experience gifts keep on giving for many years. The shared experiences become part of your shared history, and will be laughed over and retold many times in the future. That story of how Uncle Pete fell off the paddleboard, and a seal popped up behind him to say hello. And every time we told him to turn around to see, it disappeared again. Over and over. (This is actually a true story and a family favourite!)
In fact, if you feel that you’re becoming distant from a close friend, it’s proven that buying them an experience gift that you can all share brings you back together.
4. Experiences Don’t Invite Competition Or Envy
A study from a few years ago suggests that the pleasure we get from receiving material gifts, especially at times like Christmas when gift giving is ubiquitous, is often tainted by comparison with the gifts others receive. And even the pleasure you get from gift giving can be affected. You thought you had bought Aunty Carol the perfect present, but yet again you sister has upped the stakes and beaten you again.
Experiences don’t suffer from the same direct comparison problems. Everyone can enjoy them in their own way and their own time.
5. We Get Tired Of Gifts, But Value Memories
We’ve touched on this already, but one of the key reasons why people buy material gifts rather than experiences is because they think they last for longer and are therefore better value. That new bird table will last much longer than the bird watching experience, therefore must give more pleasure.
But that’s categorically wrong. Many studies have shown that we’re all subject to something called ‘the hedonic treadmill’ or ‘hedonic adaptation’. Our happiness quickly returns to its normal state after receiving a new gift – the gift just becomes part of our ‘new normal’ and very quickly stops giving us pleasure. An experience however generates memories and shared connections that last for much longer. And a future conversation with a stranger about something entirely random can trigger that memory and release the pleasure hormones again.
For those of you still not convinced, maybe you can combine a material gift with a related experience: a bottle of wine from a local vineyard plus a vineyard trip; an authentic Indian Cookery lesson plus some Indian recipe books and spices; A birdwatching experience and a stuffed bird. Ok, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.
Having said all of that, the very, very best present you can buy is one that adds to or improves the pleasure your nearest and dearest gets from their experiences. So if you want the gift that keeps giving, then a McConks carbon SUP paddle is THE perfect present. Or, if you’re feeling particularly generous then what could be a better than a McConks iSUP package?