“Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body.”  - George Carlin


Translated, collecting things in order to be happy is as ineffective as wearing a meal to feel full.


WHO doesn’t want to be happy?

Until fairly recently, the question of HOW to be happy has been left [scientifically] unanswered.

Fortunately, there is emerging research in the field of “Positive Psychology”. Positive Psychology is the scientific study of thriving individuals. Positive Psychology assumes people want to lead meaningful lives, maximize their strongest qualities, and have positive experiences in most aspects of their lives – work, relationships, and recreation.

Translated, people want to be happy.



I’ve been reading about “how to be happy”. Unsurprisingly, I did not find sandwich wardrobes mentioned anywhere, although one message emerged loud and clear. Here are titles from just a few of the articles I read:

Glee from Buying Objects Wanes, While Joy of Buying Experiences Keeps Growing  By G. Lowery

The Secret to Happiness? Spend Money on Experiences, not Things by I. Pozin

Eight Reasons Why People Who Spend Money on Experiences Are Happier by M. Oppland

Seven Reasons Why Experiences Will Make You Happier Than Material Things by J. Beuker (What happened to the 8th reason?)

Spending on Experiences Instead of Possessions Results in More Satisfaction by K. Purdy

The Science of Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things by J. Cassano

Buy Experience, not Things by J. Hamblin

Why You Should Spend Your Money on Experiences, not Things by T. Bradberry

Dear reader, are you picking up on a theme, or do you need a translation?


WHY are experiences better?

  1. Experiences can’t be quantified. This makes it more difficult to compare oneself to the proverbial Jones’. Comparison can lead to feelings of inadequacy. Inadequacy = unhappiness.
  2. Material items lose their luster. The snazzy car doesn’t stay new and shiny forever. The biggest, fastest, most capable computer is gradually replaced by new technology. However, memories of a pleasant experience can be relived over and over again, often gaining emotional value over time.
  3. Adaptation. Initially, material purchases may feel novel and exciting. Eventually, one gets accustomed to the object, it becomes the “norm” and it emotional value is decreased.
  4. Material possessions describe “what we have”. Experiences contribute to “who we are”. Sailing the Northwest Passage influences who you are, but owning the boat describes only what you have. Our very identities are an accumulation of our experiences.
  5. Experiences are typically social and shared with others. Social experiences build interpersonal connections and strengthen relationships.


WHAT is the relevance here?

I established REC Retreats. I already know that participating in events at REC Retreats is fun. A lot of fun. Fun is good. But what is even more important than fun is helping others.

I want REC Retreats to enhance the quality of life of participants. I want participants to experience a sense of belonging in the supportive community at REC Retreats. I want them to try new things, learn new skills, and grow in a safe and accepting environment. I want participants to play and build joyful memories. All of this is accomplished through experiences at REC events.

I did this research because I needed to know that REC Retreats was providing more than a way to have fun. I wanted to know REC Retreats was helping others. Fun is good. But helping others is better.


There is a vast collection of happiness research.  One of the leading researchers, Dr. Thomas Gilovich, Cornell University, conducted a 20-year study on how happiness is affected by acquisition of possessions vs. experiences. For more information, see: