An exercise that underscores the Happiness Strategy of Connection is to have you remember your 21st birthday—or any significant birthday or event like your high-school graduation—and challenge yourself to recall every physical present you received on that day. Most of you can perhaps remember gifts that stand out—like a new computer as a graduation present or a watch for a special birthday—however, most people are hard pressed to remember every specific present they received that day.
Yet, when people are asked to recall all the people who were at their 21st birthday celebration or graduation party, what they did, or where it took place, most people can immediately and easily answer those questions.
So, why is it that we are more readily able to remember the experiences and people in our lives while it’s more difficult to bring to mind objects and material goods that you’ve acquired or bought in just the past day?
- See if you can recall a significant and happy event from your own life, such as your wedding day, baby shower, milestone birthday, graduation party, or even the most recent Christmas or Hannukah celebration.
- Can you remember and list every single gift or card you received for that event?
- Now, how about recalling the experience of the event—who all was with you celebrating this joyous occasion, what made this moment so meaningful to you, and why do these memories still bring you joy years later?
- Do you feel greater contentment when thinking about the gifts or cards you received or from the people who made this event possible?
This fun exercise exposes another fundamental aspect about the Social Brain and human behavior—pleasure isn’t the same as happiness. So, what exactly is the difference? As I discuss in my first book Brain, Body & Being, there’s a tendency in our society to conflate pleasure as happiness.
Experiences that are grounded in social connection advance the Happy Brain.
Why do creating shared experiences boost a Happy Brain? One obvious answer is the Social Brain, of course! The Happiness Strategy of Connection is the Social Expression of Happiness that satiates your craving to be part of a tribe. Experiencing the Happiness Strategy of Connection is the Vitamin S that strengthens your Happy Brain!
Here’s something you can try that reflects the Happiness Strategy of Connection and the benefits of a Happy Brain.
- This year for the Holiday Season or for a friend’s upcoming birthday, rather than gifting them with a standard physical present, try surprising them with a shared, social experience. Let’s say you have $20 to spend. The same $20 can either go into buying a gift that will likely be forgotten about in a month, or the same $20 can go into creating an experience both you and the other person will remember for a lifetime. What might that look like?
- Rather than buying $20 of roses for your girlfriend on Valentine’s Day—that are just going to last a week—gift her with an experience of making her favorite breakfast in bed for the same amount of money. Trust me, she will relish it!
- Rather than giving your 10-yr old son a $20 video game for his birthday—that, again, he’ll likely stop playing with in about a month—treat him to an afternoon at the amusement park. He will always remember that shared time with you!