Jeremy Statton

Living Better Stories

2 Easy Steps to Being Happier

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One of the main reasons our stories are boring is that we don’t understand how to find happiness.

Our nation started on the premise that we all have a right to pursue our own happiness, and with perviously unmatched levels of freedom and prosperity, it has never been easier.

Or is it?

It’s only easy if you are looking in the right places.

There are two easy steps that you can take to increase the likelihood that you will be happier.

The Science

This article by CNN.com discusses the difference between finding bliss in owning possessions and finding it in experiences.

There is a smart guy at San Francisco State University named Dr. Ryan Howell, who is a happiness expert. He understands that we as a society don’t get it, so he has spent his career proving to us what really gives us joy.

He sat down with people who were spending time and money to bring a little extra delight to their lives. These purchases could be grouped into two different categories, possessions or experiences.

Stuff you own versus stuff you do.

And guess what. He scientifically discovered that doing stuff matters more to you than owning stuff.

When we have experiences in our life not only is the initial level of happiness higher, but it also lasts much longer.

photo by Mo Riza (Creative Commons)

Your Life

A less scientific way to prove this is to think about your own life. What were the happiest moments in the last year? Did any of these moments involve possessions or were they something you did with other people?

What about all of the stuff you bought in the last year? Do you still use half of it? Do you even know where half of it is?

The top reasons cited for this increased level of happiness were sharing the experience with other people and the feeling of being alive.

Scientifically certifiable or not, it makes sense to me that feeling fully alive makes life better.

Experiences involve people and relationships and cultures. We engage our senses fully when we interpret what we see and hear and taste and touch and smell. Our brains are stimulated and our souls are astonished with delight.

We were made to love people and give of ourselves for their good.  And when we love others, we unearth a part of our souls that is buried deep by the love of ourselves.

Two Easy Steps

There are two take home messages. Stop buying stuff. The less you buy the more time and money you will have.

And then start doing stuff. Do stuff that matters. Do stuff that matters forever.

Remarkable experiences don’t just happen on accident. We can make them happen.

Here are 14 quick suggestions to help you experience more in your life.

  • Turn off the TV. It’s a great place to start.
  • Call an old friend you haven’t spoken to in years.
  • Give unexpected gifts. The more outlandish and unexpected the better.
  • Dance instead of just watching from the corner of a room.
  • Take someone out to dinner and pick up the tab. Have incredible conversations. Laugh until it hurts.
  • Travel to a place you have always wanted to but never had the chance.
  • Run a half-marathon with 18,000 other people. This takes time and training, but worth it.
  • Go on a mission trip. If you don’t know where to start try Adventures in Missions or Samaritan’s Purse.
  • Ask your kids what they want to do this weekend and say yes no matter how absurd, impractical, or ridiculous.
  • Help someone in need. Orphans. Widows. The homeless. Maybe your own family.
  • Ask your neighbors over for ice cream.
  • Conquer a fear. Skydiving. Snakes. Flying. Mexican food. Whatever.
  • Throw a party in celebration of life and invite everyone you know. The more the better.
  • Tell everyone who matters to you that you love them in a special way.

What is the most memorable experience of your life? Tell us your suggestion in the comments.

About Jeremy Statton

Jeremy is a writer and an orthopedic surgeon. When not ridding the world of pain, he helps you live a better story. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook or Google +.

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19 Replies

  1. DDF

    Yeah baby… That’ll preach!

  2. It preaches to me. I have an awful habit of buying stuff. Have you discovered the secret to doing more and buying less, DDF?

  3. I have absolutely experienced this.  Growing up, money was tight.  My parents were going from paycheck to paycheck.  We never went hungry, but we never had much in the way of possessions.  However, we would do things/experiences together as a family that created amazing, lasting memories that I still cherish today.

    Fast forward to me living on my own and having an income.  Buy a house, buy a car, buy a big TV, movies, computers, art, etc… This stuff, though it felt good to purchase, rarely creates lasting memories or brings a smile to my face after the new has worn off.  In fact, I find myself wanting to experience more, and own less.  We’ve been doing that over the past couple years, and if a picture is worth a thousand words, a fond memory is worth 10,000.  

    When we consume, we are only happy in the moment and soon become hungry again.  When we have an experience, it changes us fundamentally, grows us in some way. 

    I love your list, my top two would be: give outlandish gifts and go on a mission trip.  I would add to your list: SCUBA dive to see the world underwater.

    Thanks for this inspiration and gentle encouragement.

  4. LOVE THIS Jeremy. I’m going to Don Miller’s Storyline this weekend and I’m hoping to pick up some new insight toward living a better story. 

  5. I’ve never been SCUBA diving, but that does sound great. Just the experience of seeing the world underwater would be memorable.

  6. That’s great! I wish I was going, but it just doesn’t fit in. Tell Don I said hi.

  7. Lorna Faith

    Simplify…that speaks to me!  “Stop buys stuff and start doing stuff”…getting on that right now! Thanks for a great post Jeremy :-)

  8. I am wanting to do the same, but making it happens is easier said than done.

  9. I would have to say the most memorable experience was my first time skydiving. It was crazy. Going 10,000 feet into the sky, the door opening and the rush of air coming in, and the extreme pressure of the wind as you’re falling towards the ground. An experience I will never forget!

  10. That’s something I’m trying to do as well Lorna. It’s hard as we have a lot of junk in our lives and deciding what stays and what goes can be confusing.

  11. Awesome! We need 10,000 feet worth of wind blowing in our faces more in our lives. Did that statement make any sense?

  12. I’m going to turn off the TV, call an old friend who’s got a fear of flying and tell her/him how much he/she means to me by giving give him/her the unexpected gift of a mission trip (she/he has to take me with her/him) to Argentina (or some other place we’ve always wanted to visit) where we will help widows and orphans, dance, run until it hurts (no, wait, maybe laugh until it hurts), eat crazy-flavored ice cream, and do other absurd things celebrating spiritual life.

    Decided.

    Katie

  13. Of course. But since we’re new friends, you have to pay your own way. Sorry. I don’t make that much. 😉
    Katie

  14. I have lots of memorable experiences. I don’t know if I can narrow it down to one. Many of them are in fun and foreign places I traveled to, and then others are just me and the hubby at home laughing on the couch together. 

    I agree that doing stuff leads to more happiness than buying stuff. Unless that stuff you’re buying is coffee. Coffee always makes me happier.

  15. Great point about the coffee. I guess there is always an exception to the rule. i should write a counter point post telling people to buy as much coffee as they can.

  16. Just brilliant.  I totally agree and think you sum it up perfectly when you say –

    Do stuff that matters – Do stuff that matters forever!

    I think so many of us get lost in the everyday bits and bitiness of life, that we sometimes forget we have the power to make stuff happen, we have the power to have incrediable conversations, it is up to us to do it.

    I think so often so many people see remarkable experiences as something that happen effortlessly to other people, when in fact they are often the result of weeks sometimes years of work.

    As writers – we write because we have to, because it is hardwired into our dna, we will get our book contracts, but they don’t just happen, they are a result of us showing up day and after, writing, working at our writing, and then working some more.

    Really enjoying your posts Jeremy.  Thank you for them.

  17. And I enjoy your comments.

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