The Psychology Of Hedonic Adaptation - Deepstash
The Definitive Guide to Hygge

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Hedonic Adaptation

... also referred to as hedonic treadmill, is defined as "the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes"  - Positive Psychology Program.

After a while, people become used to changes in their lives. The enjoyment or unhappiness that follows certain life events gradually wears off, returning each person to their "default" emotional state.

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Elements of Hedonic Adaptation

  • Shifting adaptation levels: When an individual experiences a slight emotional up or down, and then returns to his or her default level of happiness.
  • Desensitization: When an individual becomes desensitized to a circumstance or situation they no longer have the same reactions that another person might experience. 
  • Sensitization: When an individual is sensitized to a certain situation, they get used to something that they were not previously accustomed to. 

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Hedonic Adaptation Critics

Critics view the hedonic adaptation tendency as a generalization that fails to take potentially shifting factors into account.

  • Significant life events such as loss of employment or the end of a major relationship can change one's original level of contentment.
  • Negative events are often more significant than positive ones.
  • Consuming certain medication may also alter the set level of happiness in a person who has mental illness or other clinical problems.

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Reasonings behind hedonic adaptation

People become used to whatever changes are causing their increase in happiness. Over time, the initial excitement of the thing that happened wears off with a return to the "set level of happiness."

Someone who undergoes a positive experience with desirable offshoots can shift their levels of expectation. It then becomes their new normal.

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Combating Hedonic Adaptation

The process of hedonic adaptation can be minimized, if not eliminated.

  • Uneventful everyday routines are the ultimate breeding ground for hedonic adaptation. Variety can help maintain and even increase the excitement and joy that accompanies positive life experiences.
  • Gratitude and appreciation for the blessings in one's life can also combat hedonic adaptation.

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