How to give the gift of happiness


Isn't that a great feeling when you give someone a gift and you can see they honestly love it. New research shows if you give someone a life experience - there will be more happiness for more people and for a longer period of time.

This holiday season, instead of giving loved ones something they've been wanting - give them something they've been wanting to do.

"If they go to the theater, or if they surf, or if they enjoy bed and breakfasts - it's a part of who they are," said Prof. Ryan Howell, Ph.D, San Francisco State University.

Howell conducted the research and he says giving life experiences, or experiential purchases, as he calls them, makes people happier than regular presents, because it satisfies the basic human needs of connecting with others and feeling alive.

"It has a sense of giving you excitement and joy and energy - that can only come from an experience. Your computer does not give you a sense of vigor, a sense of excitement - but an experience does," said Howell.

Professor Howell says his research shows that giving a moment of happiness is truly the gift that keeps on giving.

"There's what we call a spiraling up effect, where I enjoy it internally, I get to enjoy it with my friends and then and you enjoy it, and I enjoy that you enjoy it, and it kind of keeps going up and up and up," said Howell.

To test the professor's theory, ABC7 came here to the laboratory, also known as the Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco.

"Earings - you'll be like - 'oh I got these for this' and then you want something more the next time. But an experience is something you remember, and you grow from it," said Laura Deely, San Francisco resident.

"I'd rather have mine and she has hers - than for us to do something together. I may be in trouble for that, but I think that's better," said Tim McDaniel, Redwood City resident.

"A lot of times you buy a gift and it ends up in the garage. You remember experiences more," said Milen Drendain, San Francisco resident.

ABC7 came upon a man claiming to be the world's foremost expert on gift giving.

"That's cool," said Santa Claus, North Pole resident.

"So Santa, giving a life experience, what do you think?" asked ABC7's Terry McSweeney.

"That's a good idea if that's what they want. I don't see anything wrong with it," said Santa Claus.

And if it's okay with him, it's okay.

And another cool part about giving a life experience is Professor Howell says his research found it doesn't matter to people how much you spend, it's the experience that counts. That comes in handy as we go through these less-than-jolly economic times.

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