Why experiences make us happiest in life – and how to make the most of them

Abseiling
Shutterstock
Anna Brech
by Anna Brech
29 September 2021

The novelty of new things fades away quickly, but experiences stay with us always. Virgin Red, the new rewards club from Virgin, provides a brilliant balance of both. 

“One of the enemies of happiness is adaptation,” Dr. Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University tells Fast Company. “We buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them.”

Experiences, on the other hand: they stay with you. You’ll be thinking about them long after you’ve taken that terrifying tandem bungee jump, or hopped on a plane to Barbados. Here’s why.

A story to tell

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Part of the beauty of experiences is that you can’t compare them: they are unique to you. Take the thrill of a helicopter buzz flight (9,500 Virgin Points) – that’s all yours; no one else will experience it as you do. The same goes for VIP tickets to Disney on Ice at Manchester’s AO arena (20,000 points), or a South African luxury safari (reward flights from 20,000+ points). 

These kind of activities and events that will stay with you forever, as part of your personal story. And storytelling, as research shows, is a great way for us to develop, grow and learn. 

Stretch your limits and try new skills

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

This takes us neatly onto another great benefit of experiences: they push you out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s something fun and hedonistic, like a weekend break to New York (reward flights from 20,000+ points), or more challenging, like learning to speak Chinese Mandarin (6,250 points for an online course), an experience is a nudge to stretch yourself in new and exciting ways. 

You might, for instance, try solo travel for the first time. Or you may hop aboard a paddleboard and discover you truly love it. This element of learning is underrated by adults. The mere act of giving something new a go is a win for self-esteem: it instantly builds your sense of confidence and resilience. 

Put relationships centre stage

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

Connections really matter. More than anything else in life – even money or fame – relationships are what keep people happy, according to science. As social creatures, the best thing we can do is make connections; both deep, lifelong friendships and everyday interactions with strangers. And experiences of all kinds are a shortcut to this particular kind of joy.  

This may occur in the literal sense of a shared experience with loved ones; for example, Sofar Sounds tickets for two (4,750 points), or a group break to a shepherd's hut in Devon (21,500 points via a Virgin Red voucher for Virgin Experience Days’ Azure Collection). Or it could happen more organically. By bonding with strangers on a train trip, for instance, (earn 3 points for every £1 spent), or by making an 1,000 point donation to Centrepoint, to help vulnerable young people move on from homelessness. 

Find the best of both worlds with Virgin Red

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

It’s fair to say that happiness is closely linked to experiences. But like all aspects of wellbeing, life satisfaction is a grey area – we can’t dismiss the appeal of material things altogether. Simple pleasures motivate us; they restore feelings of positivity and are essential to fulfilling our everyday goals.

Happily, with Virgin Red, members can have the best of both worlds. On the experience side of the equation, you can fire up the power of learning with a loungewear design course (14,600 points), or tap your wanderlust side with business flights to Paris (8,000 points). 

Big and bold events are what we’re all about, whether that’s a Spy Academy experience (17,500 points with a Virgin Red voucher for Virgin Experience Days’ Scarlet Collection), dumper truck racing (8,750 points with a Virgin Red voucher for Virgin Experience Days Amber Collection),  a seven-course tasting menu for two at Michelin star restaurant L'Ortolan (26,000 points with a Virgin Red voucher for Virgin Experience Days’ Ebony Collection) or more. 

On the other end of the scale, Virgin Red is also home to a series of everyday pick-me-ups. This could be a triple chocolate muffin from Greggs (200 points), an artisan Scarlet Lady tote bag (3,000 points) or a copy of Bastille’s Bad Blood album on vinyl (3,000 points).  For just a small helping of Virgin Points, these little treats are all yours. 

Large or small, every surprise you can think of is waiting with Virgin Red. So go dive in and take a scroll through our app – the world is waiting to wow you.