• Happiness: the 'holy grail' of emotions? Perhaps that's not the case

  • James Wallman shares three simple tips to cultivate happiness in your life everyday

  • If you think you could benefit from seeing a therapist, you can find one here

There's lots of advice on how to be happy nowadays.

Be more purposeful. Be happy with where you are. Write a list of your dreams. Meditate more. Enjoy the journey.

It's all good advice, most of it backed by solid research. But sometimes it seems like there are so many routes to happiness, it's hard to know which way to turn. Instead of getting on with it and just being happy, you spend too much time wondering if what you're doing is what you're supposed to be doing, if you're doing it properly and if you're doing enough of it.

And then you really feel lost.

A new pioneering group called ‘experientialists’ may hold the key to this elusive happiness question. 'Experientialists', as opposed to materialists, prefer experiences to material goods. So instead of putting their time and money into buying things like new shoes, shirts, watches and handbags, they spend on weekends away and time with friends.

They invest their money in memories, instead of things. New discoveries by psychologists like Leaf van Boven, Tom Gilovich and Dan Gilbert back up experientialism as the best place to find happiness.

Based on this new truth and extensive studies of the way these experientialists live, here are three largely universal habits of highly effective experientialists.

Make these habits your habits, and I guarantee you greater happiness in your life.

1) Put People First

As humans, we’re social animals. We like hugs. We like to be listened to. And we like to feel as if we belong. We are, you could say, people people. So every time you come to the crossroads of any decision, ask yourself: will I be doing this with others? Will this bring me closer to others? If the answers are yes, do it.

2) Be Here Now

Flow is a mental state that occurs when you are effortlessly engaged in whatever it is you are doing, originally identified by a psychologist called Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It’s what athletes call ‘in the zone’ and what spiritual gurus like Eckhart Tolle mean by ‘in the present’.

Flow is key for happiness. Put your time and money into things that command your attention, like singing in the shower or a choir, slurping down an oyster, climbing a rock-wall, or cycling down a hill with your feet off the pedals.

3) Make this your motto: 'Memories live longer than things'

On the day he died in 2002, my grandfather Jack gave me a note. He'd been over for lunch at my new flat, and I'd been talking up the career I was then pursuing and my ambitions for the future. He signed the note off 'memories live longer than dreams'. I've spent more than a decade wondering what he meant. After years of research, I think I now have the answer.

Our materialistic consumer culture raised us to believe that the best place to find happiness was in getting and having material goods. But, as psychologists have now proved, that just isn't true.

So, next time you find yourself thinking about buying some new thing and believing that having it will make you happier, remind yourself of what I now realise my grandfather Jack meant: that material goods are all well and good, but memories, which come from experiences, are more likely to lead to happiness. Or, more simply, remember that memories live longer than things.

Further reading

How happy are you?

How we make new memories

Can you teach yourself to be happy?

Is forgiveness the key to happy relationships?