Experiences Make Us Happier Than Possessions—Here’s Why

11 min read -
Tatiana Azman
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Mindvalley members posing for a selfie at Mindvalley Weekend in Berlin and emulating the question, "Do experiences make us happier than possessions?"
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Summary: Do experiences make us happier than possessions? Science says yes. Discover why this is so and how Mindvalley events encompass this belief.

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “Do experiences make us happier than possessions?” As it turns out, science says they do. 

The fact of the matter is, material things might bring us momentary gratification. However, when it comes to the pursuit of happiness, it seems that experiences have the one-up and help keep us feeling truly alive.

That’s why Mindvalley events, like A-Fest, Mindvalley University, and Mindvalley Live (held in various beautiful locations around the world), are so special. 

They’re not like any typical conference, according to Laura Viilep, head of global events at Mindvalley and one of Eventex’s 100 Most Influential People in the Event Industry in 2022. Rather, they’re a gathering of those who share the same or similar passions and goals, creating a sense of community and belonging that can’t be found elsewhere.

So let’s explore why experiences are the key to lasting happiness and discover how Mindvalley events can help you unlock that happiness through meaningful, shared experiences.

Laura Viilep, head of global events at Mindvalley
Laura Viilep, head of global events at Mindvalley

What Science Says About Experiences and Happiness

If you’ve ever heard the song “Can’t Buy Me Love” by The Beatles, you’ll know they got it right—experiences make us way happier than possessions do.

Think about it: Do you remember more of the things you did, like going on a beach vacation in Sardinia with your family? Or do you remember the things you had, such as that I Heart Sardinia t-shirt you just “had to have”?

When we engage in new experiences, we challenge ourselves, learn new things,  connect with other people, and gain a sense of accomplishment and self-improvement,” says Olla Abbas, head of Mindvalley Middle East/North Africa. “This can also lead to feelings of happiness and fulfillment.

So what does science have to say about all this? Do objects or experiences make us happier? Here are some research findings that make the case:

1. Daily real-world experiences can make us happy

A 2020 study published in Nature Neuroscience discovered a link between our daily environments and our sense of well-being. That means we tend to be happier when there’s a variety of things to do in our daily routine, like going to new coffee shops, taking walks on different routes, or working with friends at a café instead of in the office.

2. Money can buy happiness

Contrary to popular belief, money can buy happiness—when you spend it on experiences, not things. That’s what one study conducted by Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, concluded.

You can really like your material stuff; you can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless, they remain separate from you,” he explains in an article in Forbes. “In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.”

3. Buying happiness is both simple and complex

A study by Ryan Howell, an assistant professor of psychology at San Francisco State University, found that when it came to experiences, people felt a greater sense of vitality—they felt “alive.” However, it really depends on what the experience is.

For example, if you’re into basketball, you may enjoy floor seat tickets to an NBA game. Your family or friends, on the other hand, may not be basketball fans, so it wouldn’t be a happy experience for them.

In a 2015 TEDx Talk, Ryan suggests asking yourself three important “Will I…?” questions every time you want to spend money: Will I…

  • Feel genuine or authentic?
  • Be able to use my talents and skills to learn something new?
  • Feel closer to my friends and family?

If you can actually ask yourself these questions, you can feel that you’re actually going to be ensuring yourself psychological need satisfaction,” he explains in the TEDx Talk. And as you satisfy more of your psychological needs through your experiences, “you can be assured that you’ll be happier tomorrow than you are today.

The Power of Shared Experiences

So experiences provide us joy, but what about the power of shared experiences? Concerts, sports games, festivals, and the list goes on—there’s something truly magical about doing something meaningful or exciting with people who share our interests and passions.

For example, those who attend Mindvalley events have shared stories of how they felt a sense of belonging and community being surrounded by like-minded individuals. As Laura puts it, “Community and connection—I think that’s the one thing that makes our events very unique.

Here are a few who’ve felt the power of connecting with others.

Steffani LeFavour, Mindvalley Member
Steffani LeFavour, Mindvalley Member

Steffani LeFavour

The first time I attended A-Fest, I looked around the room and saw the happiest, healthiest, most successful people I had ever been around. I know I had found my tribe.

They helped shape me into the happiest, healthiest most successful version of myself I have ever known. They keep raising the bar. So I keep coming back.

Best decision I’ve ever made.

Adora Aiza, Mindvalley Member
Adora Aiza, Mindvalley Member

Adora Aiza

The “aha” moments are uncountable. In the span of about a year as a member, I have shifted my habits, social circles, and identity. It seems like many of my old lifestyle structures have fallen apart, but I can look in the mirror and honestly feel proud of who I am becoming.

The greatest “aha” moments for me are when I watch the click happen in someone else—the look a person has when their eyes shift from victim to empowered, confused to clear, and lonely to social butterfly.

Jenny Quenard, Mindvalley Member
Jenny Quenard, Mindvalley Member

Jenny Quenard

After being a Mindvalley Member for some time, [A-Fest in Jordan] was the first Mindvalley event I ever attended. Of course, the experience itself was soul-nourishing, heart-expanding, and beyond. Yet, it is what came after A-Fest that has marked 2022 as a year of rebirth. 

Ever since A-Fest, I have experienced one transformation after the other, almost nonstop, in almost every area of my life. Beyond my personal transformations, one of the most beautiful gifts has been uniting me with soul brothers and sisters I didn’t know I had from all around the world—and it’s only the beginning.

7 Experiences That Can Help Boost Your Happiness

There are many different kinds of experiences that can contribute to a happy brain. Whether it’s trying something new or connecting with like-minded people, Mindvalley experiences can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment that material possessions just can’t match.

We bring in the fun and playfulness [to the Mindvalley events] and also leave space for magic.

— Laura Viilep, head of global events at Mindvalley

So if you’re looking for experiences, here are a few suggestions and how you can find them at Mindvalley events. 

1. Travel to new places

If you’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, you may be familiar with how life-changing traveling can be. It allows for personal growth, healing, and rediscovering yourself. 

Going on a trip on your own can be empowering and enriching, helping you to discover your independence and engage in self-reflection. On the other hand, going with others can be a bonding experience, fostering deeper connections and creating shared memories.

Whether you decide to go on a solo adventure or in a group, traveling can help you break the monotony of your routine and get out of your comfort zone. 

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: A-Fest, Mindvalley University, and Mindvalley Live are held in various locations around the world. From Costa Rica to Estonia to Dubai, you’ve got to admit, these beautiful locations would be a dream to go to.

Being a part of a transformational event can be inspiring, but when it’s in a bucket list place with other like-minded people, it can be quite the adventure.

2. Try new activities

Trying something new engages your brain in novel ways. In fact, research has shown that doing so can prime your brain to be resilient to changing circumstances.

Whether it’s a hobby, a sport, or an artistic pursuit, it’s about seizing the day, allowing yourself to embrace a sense of adventure, and looking at the world from a different perspective.

Carpe diem” is the phrase from Dead Poets Society, and it’s a fitting one, too. 

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: Mindvalley events are designed to be immersive experiences, according to Laura. It can help you explore different aspects of your life and discover new passions. 

They often include meditation sessions, dance parties, and workshops on everything from public speaking to nutrition. Additionally, what makes these events so unique is that, oftentimes, the speaker sessions are interactive, like Sonia Choquette’s talk on tapping into one’s intuition. 

3. Volunteer or help others

Fact: helping people changes lives. Another fact: helping people promotes positive thoughts. Additional fact: helping people provides a sense of purpose.

Here are a few benefits to volunteering:

  • There’s the opportunity to connect with others and build new relationships.
  • You’ll meet like-minded people who are also committed to making a difference in the world.
  • You’ll have the chance to collaborate on meaningful projects and initiatives.

There are many different ways to make an impact. What’s more, you can choose an activity that aligns with your passions and interests. 

For example, if you’re an animal lover, you could donate your time to a local shelter. If you’re a nature person, you can participate in a beach cleanup. Or if you’re a people person, you could help out at a soup kitchen or even help Mindvalley put on their annual event, Mindvalley University.

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: Mindvalley events attract a community of people who are passionate about making a difference in the world. And being a volunteer for it can be a great way to immerse yourself in the experience of giving back.

We usually take the biggest amount of volunteers for Mindvalley University,” says Laura. So if you’re looking to be involved, you can find out more about it at the Mindvalley website.

4. Spend quality time with those you love

Being with our loved ones creates a feeling of connection, support, and belonging. It’s essential to our well-being, according to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

Whether it’s sitting down for a meal, going into nature, playing games, having a movie night, or traveling together, there’s much to benefit from with quality time. In fact, research shows it’s the driving force behind a healthy relationship between couples as well as between parents and their children.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: quality doesn’t necessarily mean quantity. We don’t need to spend a lot of time with our loved ones—just enough to have meaningful experiences with them.

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: A-Fest, Mindvalley University, and Mindvalley Live are designed to bring people together. Attending these events with family or friends can create lasting memories and strengthen relationships.

Going into these gatherings can be daunting for some. If this is something that resonates with you, Laura does recommend coming with someone you know. After all, it’s always comforting to be in a new place and on a new adventure with someone you trust.

5. Connect with nature

Much like what Jake Sully learned in Avatar, spending time with Mother Nature gives the chance to experience a sense of awe and wonder. It’s an incredible teacher—one that can guide you to see the beauty in the world and reconnect with yourself. 

Every experience with it is unique. A walk in the woods can help with earthing. A day at the beach can be especially rejuvenating. And a hike up a hill or mountain can help you appreciate the wonders from above. 

So, make time to go outside, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of the natural world around you.

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: It’s no secret that Mindvalley events often take place in stunning natural settings—the island of Pula in Croatia, by the Dead Sea in Jordan, on the beaches of Bali, in the tropics of Jamaica, and so much more.

What’s more, you’ll find activities outdoors at many of the Mindvalley events. Here are a few that have happened in past gatherings:

  • Morning yoga at Mindvalley University 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia;
  • Breathwork with Niraj Naik, SOMA Breath® CEO and trainer of Mindvalley’s Breathwork for Life Quest, at A-Fest 2022 in Jordan; and
  • Meditation sessions at A-Fest 2018 in Sardinia.

Whether it’s through outdoor activities or simply spending time in a beautiful natural setting, Mindvalley events can help you deepen your connection with the natural environment. More importantly, it can have a great impact on improving your overall well-being.

6. Practice mindfulness

Happy people know one thing: a mindfulness experience is a happy experience.

When most people think of mindfulness, they think of meditation or yoga. It’s true, but that’s only one aspect of the practice.

It’s about being present and fully engaged in the here and now, without judgment or distraction. That in itself can help reduce stress and anxiety while promoting mental clarity, emotional regulation, and overall well-being.

It’s one practice that’s highly encouraged at Mindvalley events. A-Fest, Mindvalley University, and Mindvalley Live are often held in beautiful, natural surroundings, which can help people feel relaxed and rejuvenated. This peaceful environment can also help them connect with nature and practice mindfulness.

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: Mindfulness is a key component of Mindvalley itself, and it’s evident in the events. By being fully present and engaged in the experience, you can gain greater insights into yourself and the world around you.

It’s always good to have an intention,” advises Laura. “What do you want to get out of this event? Check out the speakers and agenda, and see if there’s anything you would want to focus on more.” 

Additionally, she recommends keeping an open mind and an open heart. “Sometimes,” she adds, there are things that we don’t know that we need.” And being mindful can leave you open to those possibilities.

7. Attend live events like those at Mindvalley

Concerts, festivals, gatherings… They can seem overwhelming, with the idea of being among a crowd and all. But here’s the interesting thing about it all: it can help you feel happier and grow as a person. 

As a matter of fact, one study looked at how gatherings, specifically a Hindu festival in northern India, impact social identity. The researchers found that participants who attended reported feeling more content even a month after the event than those who didn’t.

Live events, like the ones Mindvalley puts together, can be a powerful way to experience personal growth. You’re bound to end up connecting with others and finding inspiration and joy in the collective experience of learning how to better oneself for the good of humanity. 

How Mindvalley events can create that for you: One of the key benefits of attending a Mindvalley event is the community. It’s like an energy vortex of people who share your values.

Laura shares that she and her team measured if the participant found a new friend at one of the 2022 events. The results showed that 80% of them said they found a really good friend. 

And that’s the beauty of Mindvalley events—the wonderful, unique experience of belonging.

Mindvalley University 2022 in Tallinn, Estonia

Experience Epicness With Mindvalley

Back to the question, “Do experiences make us happier than possessions?” Simply, yes, but with emphasis on the “experiences” part. 

Because buying a thing won’t necessarily lead to happiness, but perhaps the experience of using it can. That infamous Marie Kondo line seems fitting here: Does it spark joy?

So this is an invitation for you to find joy, and Mindvalley can be a great place to start. 

When you sign up for an account (for free, of course), you’ll have access to sample lessons from various quests to help, guide, and advise you on your journey of personal growth. What’s more, Mindvalley is known for its community, so it’s filled with people who you’re bound to find a connection with and take your experiences from ehhh… to epic.

As Vishen, founder of Mindvalley, once said, “Baby steps are more powerful than you think.” And being part of the Mindvalley experience is one baby step closer to your happiness.

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Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
Written by

Tatiana Azman

Tatiana Azman is the SEO content editor for Mindvalley and a certified life coach. With a background in spa and wellness as well as having gone through a cancer experience, she's constantly on the lookout for natural, effective ways that help with one's overall well-being.
How we reviewed this article
Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.
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Fact-Checking: Our Process

Mindvalley is committed to providing reliable and trustworthy content. 

We rely heavily on evidence-based sources, including peer-reviewed studies and insights from recognized experts in various personal growth fields. Our goal is to keep the information we share both current and factual. 

The Mindvalley fact-checking guidelines are based on:

To learn more about our dedication to reliable reporting, you can read our detailed editorial standards.