Sunday, February 5, 2017

Give happiness in the form of experiences this holiday season

Still have names on your holiday gift list--and no idea what to get? 

Happiness on Christmas morning doesn't depend on the number of presents under the tree. That's true for children as well as adults. Research shows that the more toys a child has (and that includes grown-up toys, too), the less those "toys" are actually played with. 

For little ones, an abundance of toys and games can be overwhelming and distracting, so they really don't concentrate on learning from those toys. Even more, gratitude and generosity typically get lost under scads of Santa paper and colorful bows. 

For adults, the learning curve for many "big boy toys" can be so steep that procrastination sets in, or it's hard to find time to really enjoy them. For everyone, the excitement of unwrapping items fades quickly.

So what does that mean if you're in a frenzied shopping mode? Stop stressing about buying more, and consider ways to spend more time with your children or significant others. 

Giving experiences rather than things has many benefits.

Go ahead—take that vacation! Go to a cherished sports event or concert. Go skydiving or zip lining. The memories last longer. And it's healthier for everyone to connect and share rather than engaging in solitary moments with individual toys or objects.

The personal benefits of travel have been widely studied, but Americans get the least amount of vacation time among countries in the industrialized world, according to a study by the U.S. Travel Association.  Even when allowed unlimited vacation time, a trend more corporations are adopting, most people don’t take as much time off as they should.

There are several reasons why time away can help you live longer and happier.
Relaxing on a lovely beach makes a healthy vacation.
Health benefits: Research shows that an annual vacation can cut a person’s risk of heart attack by 50 percent. Even a short holiday can bring down blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of stress hormones. Active leisure time directly contributes to higher levels of physical and mental health—with a bonus that travelers sleep better. Experiences also help improve social and emotional development for all ages.

Anticipation: Other research has shown that the path to happiness is paved with planning and waiting for an event to happen puts your brain in overdrive with anticipation. Delayed gratification is a great lesson for children, too, as they savor thinking about the upcoming experience longer.
So many places to drive or hike--plan your activities.
Enjoyment: A study from Cornell University shows that people who spend discretionary income on experiences such as travel are happier than when buying material goods. Think how happy society as a whole could be if people focused on getting away from routine more and stretching their boundaries a little.

Relationships: Studies show that 40 percent of travelers feel more romantic on vacation, and more than half of working Americans say they come back from a vacation feeling reconnected with their family. Spending time with family can yield the biggest bonuses for everyone. 
Improve work performance: Spending time away from school or office, especially by traveling, also helps prevent burnout and improves performance after returning from a vacation. By relieving stress, time away reduces absences, increases efficiency, and helps you bring a fresh approach to work issues.

Discover new places like the Wynwood Arts district in Miami.
Memories: Think about the pleasure you get from talking about and sharing experiences with others afterwards (got a stack of photos or videos to show?). The Cornell University study supports the pleasurable memory factor since it found that people get more retrospective enjoyment and satisfaction from experiential purchases than from material purchases. Your kids will talk about the experiences with you for years to come.
Reconnect with loved ones during
shared experiences.
Life satisfaction: Even planning vacation travel generates an increase in positive feelings about one’s life, family, economic situation, and health.  Looking forward to an event often opens up a person for conversation and can help lift depression of people dealing with emotional traumas. Spending time at pleasant vacation locations, exercising during vacation, and making new acquaintances helps people keep their lives in balance.

With all those benefits, it’s time to change your mindset for gifting this year. Sites such as Groupon and Living Social offer a multitude of activities for which you can purchase gift certificates. From race car driving to visiting a safari park to staying in a tree house to extended international trips, these can be purchased at large discounts without hitting a mall.

Photos by Larry and  Beverly Burmeier

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