You buy something, it fills you with temporary joy — and then you forget about that feeling a week later. Have you ever wanted to make your happiness last longer? Well, according to recent research, you might be able to do just that — if you have the right goal in mind.
A study published in the October 2018 issue of the Journal of Consumer Psychology suggests that people have the power to increase the amount of happiness that they get out of an experience. Researchers say the key to doing this is having a “general happiness goal.” So what does that mean, exactly? In the context of this study, researchers asked people to explain a major purchase they had made recently. Then, the researchers split the participants into three groups: folks who described purchases meant to increase their general level of joy, people who described purchases they made to add to their excitement, and people who described purchases they made to become more relaxed.
All of the participants completed a questionnaire about how much happiness they felt right after the purchase. Two weeks later, they were all asked again about their level of happiness following the purchase. Six weeks later, they were all asked the same questions yet again — and this led to very different responses.
Results showed that the people with more general goals of increasing happiness reported more actual happiness as time went on. Although all three groups reported about the same amount of joy at the very beginning, it was a totally different story by the time six weeks were up.
"Our findings suggest that people can change the amount of happiness they get out of an experience," said study author Rohini Ahluwalia, PhD, in a press release. "A general happiness goal can leave a longer-lasting positive emotional imprint.”
In case you’re wondering, this joyous feeling can apply to both material possessions like a fabulous new outfit as well as experiential purchases like a vacation. Another experiment in the study suggested that the folks with general happiness goals also enjoyed more positive emotions after listening to a new song, in comparison to people who specifically wanted to feel “excited” or “energetic” afterward.
"Although more studies are needed to confirm our findings, these initial results show that we can make small changes in our thinking patterns to help us experience more joy," said Dr. Ahluwalia. "Given that short-lived happiness after experiences is such a common phenomenon, this is an important step in stretching that timeline.”
We’ll keep this in mind when we schedule some time for self-care!