Yesterday evening Carlsbad, California began its Annual Music Festival with a free Village Music Walk. Similar to free art walks held regularly in cities around the county, the music walk was an introduction to the music to be performed at different venues over the weekend—and just like most art walks—it was absolutely free. Now, most of us know deep down that the best things in life aren’t “things.” But until we stop, think about it and then start enjoying the many free experiences that bring us joy, we might be missing out on the good right in front of us.
Of course, seeking the good things in life is connected to the numerous studies that have determined that happiness comes from experiences—not stuff. Even if you spend money, you’ll be happier buying an “experience” than a “thing.” According to Livescience.com, eight separate research projects prove this point. Travis Carter, a researcher at Cornell University said, “The idea behind the research is that experiences—concerts, vacations, meals at restaurants—tend to be ultimately more satisfying than spending money on material possessions.”
Why is that? A particular study done at Cornell explained it by saying that experiences, like traveling or going to a concert, create a feeling of great satisfaction within each of us which actually grows over time. That’s because in most cases our memories are making the “experience” get better and better in our minds. In contrast, when we make a purchase of a material good—for example, a new car, a computer, clothing, etc.–we might feel fantastic up front, but that satisfaction tends to fade over time. That’s because shortly after our purchase, most of us start comparing what we’ve bought to what others are buying and what else is available. Based on that, we grow more and more dissatisfied as time goes by.
A professor named Ryan Howell from San Francisco State University explains another value to experiences. He said people who sought out experiences rather than stuff were happier in the moment as well as long after. He continued with, ”We found out the reason they were happier was because their life experiences filled them with a sense of vigor or energy and a sense of being alive. And it also helped them connect with other people.”
While it is great to know that spending your money on experiences rather than material items is important, it is SMART to realize that many of the experiences that bring us joy are absolutely free—like the free music walk in Carlsbad that Thom and I enjoyed last night. What are a few of the things we should all be watching for in our local areas to enjoy for free?
1) Art walks are held regularly in many cities to help promote local artists and local galleries. This is a great way to get out, see what others are creating, and meet new people.
2) The city of La Quinta where we live has been sponsoring “free movies in the park” during certain times of the year. Even if you have seen the movie being shown before, sometimes sitting outside when the weather is nice and soaking up the atmosphere is hugely enjoyable.
3) A number of local cities in the Coachella Valley offer regular outdoor concerts for free. These are a great opportunity to make a picnic, invite friends to meet up and sit and enjoy music for an hour or two. Even if the music isn’t your usual, it is always enjoyable to sit and watch people and expose yourself to something new.
4) Many cities are holding Farmer’s Markets on a regular basis these days. And yes, they are free to just go and walk through and experience the color and beauty of fresh vegetables and flowers. Many of the markets even have live music. Naturally, you will be tempted to buy something—but that certainly isn’t necessary to enjoy the experience.
5) Since we’ve added Kloe, our little rescue dog, to our family we’ve been spending a lot of time at the dog park. If your city has a dog park it is a great way to spend time with your dog, enjoy the outdoors, and meet some new people. Plus watching dogs play and run around is definitely a free and funny show!
6) Last but not least—can everybody say, “Nature!” That’s right. One of the BEST free experiences is right outside your front door. Taking a walk in the local park or anywhere near where you live where there is beauty and nature is always rewarding. Walking, jogging, riding your bike or merely strolling is a way to rejuvenate and lift your spirits—for free! In nearly every city, county and state across the US there are parks set up to allow every one of us a wonderful free experience we can all enjoy on a regular basis.
Since we’ve been spending time in Carlsbad, we have gone down to the beach a couple of times and watched the sunset. We’re never alone. Celebrating the setting sun over the ocean is something that is practiced around the world—and yes, it is absolutely free. You’ll see a number of people who are standing alone, observing the free gift of a golden orb between the sky and water. You’ll also see couples holding hands and watching the sunset reflected in each other’s eyes. Plus you’ll see families gathered on the beach with picnics and children running circles in the sand. Not only is the experience free for everyone who takes the time to stop and look, the sun sets every single evening. All we have to do is remember—the best things in life aren’t “things.”
“The best things in life are nearest: Breath in your nostrils, light in your eyes, flowers at your feet, duties at your hand, the path of right just before you. Then do not grasp at the stars, but do life’s plain, common work as it comes, certain that daily duties and daily bread are the sweetest things in life.”- Robert Louis Stevenson
The moon belongs to everyone
The best things in life are free,
The stars belong to everyone
They gleam there for you and me.
The flowers in Spring,
The robins that sing,
The sunbeams that shine
And love can come to everyone,
The best things in life are free.
–song written by B.G. DeSylva, Lew Brown, and Ray Henderson
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