Your Favorite Thing Might Feel Better If You Avoid Doing It

Everyone has a preferred leisure activity — and oftentimes, our favorites are the most expensive ones. Whether your idea of the ultimate release is a pricy game of golf or a new fur coat, going to do that one thing that you only have time for once a month can feel better than any other moment that came before it — but that might have more to do with the infrequency than the act itself.

This philosophy is perpetuated in a book called Happy Money by Harvard Business Professor Michael Norton. Norton says that if we are more selective about engaging in our favorite activities, we’ll actually enjoy them a lot, reported Forbes.

“It goes like this: In order to really appreciate life’s little luxuries—like spa treatments, or, say, eating at your favorite French bistro—you shouldn’t indulge in them all of the time. According to Norton, if you can limit your consumption to just once in a while, you’ll not only save money, but you’ll derive more pleasure from the experience.”

Norton’s book argues that humans are able to feel much happier from an experience when there is novelty involved, which can become difficult when you’re spending the same $50 on a fancy brunch.

“To adopt Norton’s strategy, isolate an enjoyable habit that’s become so routine it doesn’t feel special anymore. It should be something you do all of the time—and spend a decent amount of cash on. Maybe it’s Friday night dates with your significant other or something as simple as buying lunch five days a week.”

But that doesn’t mean you’re going to stop liking your favorite things entirely just because you’ve done them before. There’s also something to be said about a repeated experience with good memories tied to it. Instead, Forbes suggested picking a select number of times you’ll do the activity over the course of a week or month.

“One strategy is to create a weekly schedule for yourself. So instead of splurging on that gourmet lunch every day, resolve to only do it once a week, packing a lunch the other days. You’ll save a few bucks on the days you brown-bag it, says Norton, plus ‘you’ll actually love the experience again because you’ve turned it into a real treat.'”

Norton says that this trend goes for any activity — no matter how luxurious or pleasure-inducing. Because of that, spontaneity can also be an important part of maximizing the most joy from your experiences.

“Of course, after a while, he adds, ‘anything can become mundane.’ So if that weekly schedule starts to feel routine, another strategy is to randomize the experience. According to Norton, that’s because we tend to derive even more pleasure from an indulgence if it’s spontaneous. So go ahead and get that package of quarterly massages at your favorite spa—just book them on a day when you could really use a special treat.”

How often do you do your favorite things?

[Image via Flickr]