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Hedonic adaptation is the tendency of humans to revert to a happiness baseline shortly after new positive or negative events.
It becomes a treadmill—the Hedonic Treadmill—a perpetual motion machine that keeps us running in search of the next thing.
We create this magical universe in our minds where that one next thing will be exactly what makes us permanently, sustainably happier.
We get to that next thing, appreciate it for a moment, and then turn our gaze to the next, next thing, with no marked improvement in our happiness.
Make it a daily practice to write down your gratitude. Either right when you wake up or right before bed, write down three things you are grateful for. They can be big (a healthy family) or small (a good meal in front of your favorite TV show)—the only thing that matters is that you make note of them. The practice forces gratitude for the present into the front of our minds and works wonders for your daily contentment and happiness.
Using your gratitude lists, identify what makes you happy. Not what you think makes you happy or what society says should make you happy—but what truly makes YOU happy. Maybe it’s as simple as a cold beer at the end of a hard day of work or listening to smooth jazz by yourself when everyone has gone to sleep. Whatever it is, find those triggers and prioritize them in your life.
We all have a horrible tendency to compare ourselves to others. Comparison is like gas on your “more” fire—it tears away the enjoyment of the present and tells you that it’s not enough. When you notice yourself falling into the comparison trap, reset and focus on yourself.
If we only wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, and that is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are.
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