Looking for the key to happiness? This simple solution has the science to back it up.

What’s the key to happiness? It’s something we’ve all wondered about.

Maybe you’re one of the 43% of Americans dealing with chronic loneliness and wishing you knew more about how to make friends, keep friends, and escape loneliness.

But knowing where to start finding that happiness isn’t always easy.


Ads often encourage people to chase happiness through material things, like tech gadgets, cars, and clothes — but can you really buy happiness?

Well, according to Amit Kumar, a social psychologist who studies happiness and spending habits, you can actually give your happiness a serious boost by spending your money on meaningful moments.

Photo by Anna Dziubinska/Unsplash.

Kumar is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and has published several studies on the satisfaction people get from their purchases. He and his colleagues have compared experiential purchases like a plane ticket for a vacation to material purchases like electronics.

Kumar says they found that “people derive more satisfaction from experiential purchases like vacations than they do from material purchases like clothing, jewelry, furniture, electronic gadgets, and so on.”

So if you’re considering attending a show, visiting a new country, or taking a road trip, you might want to start packing.

According to Kumar, it’s not necessarily the purchase itself that makes you happy — it’s the memorable experiences that purchase leads to. In other words, your trip or outing will likely lead you to experience new and exciting things that you might remember forever.

And sometimes, what makes that experience memorable is the people you meet along the way and the unexpected connections you make with them.

It’s not like you need a big, dramatic moment to make this kind of connection. The moments of connection can be as simple as opening the door for a stranger, or offering a mint after enjoying a coffee with that long-lost classmate you ran into randomly while exploring a new city. Maybe, on your adventures, you’ll meet a waitress who goes above and beyond for her customers; or maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with someone in line to see that concert you’ve been waiting for all year. Maybe you’ll grab lunch with those hikers who warned you about a bear up ahead on the nature trail.

Photo by Mike Erskine/Unsplash.

Whatever these small moments are, you’ll be talking about them later, telling coworkers, dates, and new friends about that time a road trip led you to someone you might have never met otherwise.

And when you talk about an experience afterward, it lives on — and so do the feelings of happiness you’ve derived from it.

Jesse Walker, who co-authored a study with Kumar, says, “One-time experiences tend to grow sweeter in memory as time passes. Even a vacation that goes terribly wrong in every way often becomes a fond memory.”

So maybe, someday, you’ll even laugh about the road trip with your partner that got you horribly lost and spending the night in that scary hotel you swear was haunted.

Photo by Ivana Cajina/Unsplash.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to ditch material purchases altogether to find happiness — the key is to find some balance. Rather than getting pulled completely into the world of material things, Kumar says, you can put some of your spending money toward experiences, too.

You may even be able to get both at once: For instance, a cell phone with a great camera can give you mementos like photos and videos of good times shared with friends and loved ones.

Photo by Katie Treadway/Unsplash.

So look out for opportunities for those small moments of connection — they can carry a wealth of happiness.

Which means that finding the key to happiness is much simpler than many people think. It’s not about having the right material possessions to make you feel satisfied. It’s more about life’s little moments — sharing an experience and making a connection that leaves you with meaningful, happy memories.

While that may not be your only source of happiness, it’s a great start to help you combat loneliness and find the joy you seek.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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