How Well-Being Affects Being Well

A series of studies published in the journal ‘Motivation and Emotion’ has shown that as people become more materialistic, their sense of well-being and purpose is reduced, whilst if they become less materialistic it rises. Whilst materialism can be good for the economy by fuelling growth, it can also have a negative impact on a personal level, leading to anxiety and depression as consumerism damages relationships and communities.

Across three recent studies, results supported the hypothesis that people’s well-being improves as they place relatively less importance on materialistic goals, whereas orienting toward materialistic goals relatively more is associated with decreases in well-being over time.

A fourth, experimental study showed that highly materialistic adolescents who received an intervention that decreased materialism also experienced increases in self-esteem over the next several months, relative to a control group. Thus, well-being changes as people change their relative focus on materialistic goals.

The bigger picture

We all know the phrase ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’ but many of us fail to realise that it is often just part of a longer saying: ‘A picture is worth a thousand words but the memories are priceless’. This is just one of an almost endless list of sayings, from ‘Memories are forever’ to ‘It’s the moments together, that change us forever’ and ‘Memories are timeless treasures of the heart’. It’s clear that memories are important to us as a society. In an era where we are always on the go and endlessly connected to a digital world, stopping to enjoy the world around us is all too familiar. But why are happy memories so important to us?

Research by Dr Thomas Gilovich of Cornell University has shown that viewing past experiences positively can affect current state of happiness, meaning that a joyful experience cheers an individual up not just at the point of the memory creation but long in to the future. Whilst happiness at the point of receiving is roughly the same for both products and experiences – whether these are self-purchased or given as a gift – overall satisfaction for experiences increases over time whilst it decreases for physical products.

“People often think spending money on an experience is not as wise an investment as spending it on a material possession,” explained Gilovich.

“They think the experience will come and go in a flash, and they’ll be left with little compared to owning an item. But in reality we remember experiences long afterward, while we soon become used to our possessions. At the same time, we also enjoy the anticipation of having an experience more than the anticipation of owning a possession.”

Provide a lasting connection

On top of happiness, memories help to build relationships – not just with those you experience the memory with, but those who may have had a similar experience in their life, as conversational topics are opened up and shared… you’re much more likely to bond over both having hiked the Himalayas or seeing the same Broadway Show than you are over both owning iPads.

Dependant on the experience providing the memory, it can also build team working, character, overall health, understanding of the world around us… the benefits are endless.

With this evidence, the corporate organisation can adopt the thinking and apply this to the work environment thereby driving change and positively influencing behaviour. Providing memorable incentive travel rewards for great performance will inspire colleagues & stakeholders to create an emotional response and display the right attitude to ensuring your objectives are met and exceeded. Given your colleague will have a memorable time, surely the legacy of your event is worthy of your investment.