Who grew up hearing money can’t buy happiness? (insert raised hand emoji here) So the debate is still out on this. Obviously we all need to make enough money to cover our basic needs of food, shelter, general health and well-being. But just how you spend your money can absolutely contribute to your overall happiness. And today, I’m here to talk about how taking vacations makes you happier, with research to back it up!
There’s a popular country song, “Buy Me a Boat” by singer Chris Janson, where he sings about money. He says money can buy you a boat, a truck to pull it, and a cooler with, ahem, adult beverages. So what is he getting at? A theory that money can’t actually buy you happiness, but it can buy you the experiences that lead to happiness.
In Chris’ case, a boat makes him happy because of the enjoyment he gets from the activity on the boat. So in my version, it’s a trip to the beach, listening to the waves crash on the shore.
In today’s consumption-driven lifestyle there’s a lot of pressure to buy this season’s clothing, trendy home décor or a newer, fancier vehicle. Or really whatever is supposed to make you happy. We’re exposed to thousands of marketing and advertising messages a day. Each of them is telling us that buying that next thing will make our life better. And what happens after we purchase the next great thing? We’re after yet another next great thing. It can be a never-ending cycle.
Experiences vs. things
However, a recent study from San Francisco State University found that people who spent money on experiences got more enjoyment and considered it a better use of their money versus people who spent money on material items.
So think back to your favorite childhood memories. What was your favorite memory? Now think of your favorite physical possession you owned or received as a gift as a child. Which brings back fonder memories?
For most people your favorite memories are probably the times you were playing with your neighborhood friends, the time you bonded with your sibling over (insert funny story) or that family trip to (your memory here). Sometimes, physical possessions help to create memories by spending time with others while enjoying the physical item.
Going through this exercise, it’s easy see that buying and having experiences can add to your overall life satisfaction in a very powerful way. And perhaps more powerful than spending your money on accumulating physical possessions.
So how do taking vacations make you happier?
Taking vacations makes you happier because vacations can relieve stress and improve your health, both of which lead to a happier, more fulfilled life. Think back to the last time you took a vacation. How did you feel before, during and after the vacation?
Some people say the excitement before the vacation is their favorite part of traveling. And while traveling can be stressful if things go wrong, like delayed flights, the time away during vacation is usually filled with great joy. Taking time off to go on vacation provides a new perspective on your every-day routine, and most people feel refreshed and renewed after returning from a great vacation.
The research: vacations and your health
According to research published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal, “women who take vacations frequently are less likely to become tense, depressed, or tired, and are more satisfied with their marriage compared to those who do not take vacations regularly.”
Do you hear that ladies? It’s proven that taking vacations improves the quality of your life. Sign me up for another vacation ASAP!
To convince the men in your life that vacations lead to their happiness, I found a study specific to men. Over the course of 9 years the study showed that men that take annual vacations were 32% less likely to die from heart disease and 21% less likely to die from any cause. The study concludes this is because vacations reduce stress by removing ongoing stressors and anticipated threats, and at the same time creating restorative effects within the body.
So quite literally, vacations makes you happier! And bonus – they’re great for your health, too!
So maybe you’re reading this and dreaming of adventures in cities with a trendy music scene, big skyscrapers or the mountains. Or if you’re dreaming of that beach getaway, I’m here with you! My heart simply sings when I’m at the beach. I pretty much love traveling anywhere, but the ocean is my happy place.
There’s simply a feeling of relaxation around the water. So I wanted to further understand if there is research behind why beach destinations are so popular.
The research: water vacations makes you happier, too!
Neuroscientists and marine biologists have been researching if there is a connection between water and happiness. They’ve identified a link, and are calling the phenomenon ‘blue mind’ (check out the book by Wallace J. Nichols). It turns out that being near, in or under water actually activates the brain in a different way, making you happier, healthier and more connected! So traveling to lakes, waterfalls, spas, and beaches would all create ‘blue mind.’ The practice of being near water for therapeutic purposes has gone back hundreds of years. Of course!
So while the research provides obtaining a blue mind is true for any water that’s clean, blue and pollutant-free, I still like the story best when it’s ocean waves on a beautiful, relaxing beach.
I love that vacationing can, with certainty, create a happier life. I know when I’m exploring new destinations, traveling to my favorite spots and creating new adventures in this amazing world, my happiness level is wayyyy up. Experiencing the food, culture and sights with loved ones or friends during travel have been some of my greatest memories as an adult. I always return from vacation feeling refreshed, and with a new outlook on life.
So dreamer, with this new research-backed evidence that traveling and taking vacations makes you happier, where’s your next trip? Share in the comments below – I’d love to hear!