Considering how challenging it can be to earn money, one question that has been asked and tested by Scientists it: How can people spend their money towards achieving greater subjective wellbeing?
The answer that scientists in the field of positive psychology found was surprising and in some ways counter-intuitive. You would think that buying a new car or new clothes each week would make you happy right? This is not the case according to Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, who found that material objects people buy lose their happiness-inducing appeal in a short period because people adapt to the new thing bought. Studies conducted by Gilovich using self-reports of happiness based on major purchases of a thing or an experience, found that subjective wellbeing (self-reported happiness) was similarly ranked for both the material purchase as well as the experience initially, but that people’s satisfaction with things went down over time whilst the experiential purchasers satisfaction went up.
Even though material things can be enjoyed and useful, we tend to adapt to them and they fade into the background where we can forget about them and take them for granted. The experiences we have, however, we carry with us for ever and become a part of who we are and helps formulate our identity. According to Gilovich, “your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” Happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences become an ingrained part of our identity that we can savour, relive and reflect upon time and again and be taken with us everywhere we go.
Savouring is a term given to any mental experience where we engage in Positive Mental Time Travel (Positive MTT) by vividly remembering or anticipating positive events; communicating (verbally and non-verbally) or celebrating a positive (capitalisation); or, directing your attention deliberately to a present moment pleasurable experience or positive event (Berry, Hansenne, Mikolajczak & Quoidbach, 2009). Dr Rick Hanson PHD refers to it as “bringing in the good” and it has been found in several studies to have significant positive neuropsychological and social-emotional benefits too numerous to be mentioned in this short blog. Suffice to say, when you book a holiday to come and stay at Alaya Escape or somewhere else, you are actually engaging in some very impoirtant positive psychologocal processes. Namely:
Anticipation: Researching time away or a holiday, looking at pictures and visualising and imagining your prospective experience is savouring and entraining your brain in an experience before your are there, because your brain doesn’t distinguish between real or imagined and having the experience again and again every time you think about it is one of the great benefits of buying experiences over things. Booking and committing to the adventure of time away living life on your terms in a new environment and then talking about it to your significant other, friends, family, work colleagues etc is savouring the holiday preemptively and has been proven to increase levels of subjective wellbeing (cite). Each time you talk about your excitement to others and get excited, you are actually ‘capitalising’ (capitalisation) on the experience which is also another way of savouring the experience over and again.
Present moment – Mindfulness is an incredibly powerful way of training your brain to appreciate the things that we have around us all of the time. This can be as small as the complexity of insects as they move or the fresh mountain air of Alaya Escape or it could be as momentus and life changing as having children or your wedding day. Being in the moment that you have planned and executed and enjoy each moment as ‘deliberately’ without being anywhere else has got incredible benefits for your wellbeing and psychology that I will cover in future posts. Allowing yourself to be in the ‘flow’ as described by Mihály Csíkszentmihály (1975) as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one’s sense of space and time.” I mean how often are we ever truly present in the time and space in which we are? Swimming in the Alaya pool and looking into the tropical canopy, I often become lost in an incredible sense of gratitude for the opportunities I have, but also the beauty and serenity around me that I am experiencing in that moment. I can assure you that it is very easy, however, for my mind to want to go “Next!” and move onto renovations or upcoming trainings and seminars and to do lists and….. It takes some practice to be present, continual and on-going practice, but it does become a way of life with numerous positive physical, psychological, emotional and social benefits (see future posts).
Reliving and savouring experiences – Every time I think about running with the bulls in Pamplona, drinking Belgian beer and eating rich chocolate in Brugge, or walking the Latin Quarter in Paris shopping at markets I smile and get a glimpse of ‘bliss’ and anticipation for future travel. Experiences have a cyclis and enduring effect on me and raise my energy every time I reminisce or talk to somebody about their similar experiences. Also excites me to think of other positive future possibilities. When I remember the birth of my daughters, I experience feelings of overwhelming love and connection each time. The associated emotion to this experience alone could have me writing for hours! Having a store house of these memories to savour is essential and through many and varied experiences you can continue to expand this reservoir and also improve your levels of happiness.
You are not just booking, having or recalling your retreat holiday at Alaya Escape, you are actually entering into a positive cyclic psychological experience that you will take with you on your journey through the world. These trips can literally change your life in dramatic ways and it all starts with putting yourself first for once and taking the time and spending the money to do something that you will savour for a lifetime!
Happy travels and thanks for reading.
Owner Manager Alaya Escape
Quoidbach, J., Berry, E., Hansenne, M. and Mikolajczak, M. (2010). Positive emotion regulation and well-being: Comparing the impact of eight savoring and dampening strategies. Personality and Individual Differences, 49(5), pp.368-373.