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The Hedonic Treadmill: Why People Are Never Truly Happy And How You Can Change That

The hedonic treadmill

The hedonic treadmill

The hedonic treadmill is the tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness after a major positive or negative event or life change.

You want something because you think it’ll make you happy. But when you get what you want, the new thing will only make you happy for a short while before you revert to your earlier, less happy state.

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The Hedonic Treadmill: Why People Are Never Truly Happy And How You Can Change That

The Hedonic Treadmill: Why People Are Never Truly Happy And How You Can Change That

https://medium.com/mind-cafe/the-hedonic-treadmill-why-people-are-never-truly-happy-and-how-you-can-change-that-c1743ee9f7e5

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Key Ideas

The hedonic treadmill

The hedonic treadmill is the tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness after a major positive or negative event or life change.

You want something because you think it’ll make you happy. But when you get what you want, the new thing will only make you happy for a short while before you revert to your earlier, less happy state.

Recognize the signs

Almost everyone experiences the hedonic treadmill. It's a trap and makes you think that a salary raise, a new car, or a new house or career will give you lasting happiness. Those events may make us happy, but only for a short time.

If we can learn to recognize the signs and build better habits, we can be happy and content for longer.

Healthy habits

Instead of waiting for major life changes, invest in healthy habits that can guarantee satisfaction in life.

Choose activities like writing, playing music, creating art, or practicing a sport that allows you to savor the moment fully. Other people enjoy endeavors like volunteering and charity work.

Happiness is a state of mind

Happiness is not out there for us to find; it's within us. It's in what we do, how we act, how we think.

We have the potential to be happy when we choose to focus on what matters.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

The happiness curve
The happiness curve

There is increasing evidence that happiness through adulthood is U-shaped.

Life satisfaction falls in our 20s and 30s, then hitting a low in our late 40s before increasing until our 80s....

The midlife slump

That midlife slump (not to be confused with a midlife crisis) is often nothing - just a natural transition due to the passing of time.

Those likely to notice it are people that seem to have everything going for them; they're achieving their goals, and nothing much changed, yet they feel less satisfied than they expected and think there must be something wrong with their lives.

When the U-curve occurs

According to a study by economists, the U-curve is generally noticed at age 46. It tends to appear in wealthier countries.

However, some economists and psychologists factor in the possibility that those who become happier in the studies are the same people who are content in their early years.

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Hedonic adaptation

Hedonic adaptation refers to people’s common tendency to return to a determined level of happiness regardless of life’s ups and downs.

Hedonic adaptation is often referred to as “the hedonic ...

Examples of Hedonic Adaptation
  • People who win the lottery are likely to revert to their original levels of happiness after the novelty of the win has worn off.
  • It is also true for those who are in major accidents. People generally tend to return to their pre-accident levels of happiness after a period.
  • Research has found that the first bite of something delicious is experienced as more pleasurable than the subsequent bites.
How Much Control We Have

Researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky has examined this set-point:

A full 50 percent of our happiness set-point is due to genetics. 10 percent is affected primarily by circumstances like where we were born and to whom. 40 percent is subject to our influence.

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Sabotaging yourself

Sabotaging yourself and your relationships create unnecessary pain and self-generated stress.

To stop sabotaging yourself, you must first recognize when you’re getting in your own way....

Know your typical thinking patterns

Our personality and life experiences predispose us to dominant modes of thinking, but these can be biased in ways that are unhelpful in the majority of situations.

Maybe you tend to worry people are angry at you when usually this isn’t the case. Or you tend to hesitate too much in making decisions.

When you thoroughly understand your personal thinking errors, you’ll be able to correct these, and this will become easier and almost automatic with practice.            

Prioritize one-time behaviors that reduce stress

Streamline your workflow so you can get simple things done without significant willpower.

For example, instead of having a container for pens and scissors in only one room of the house, have these in three different rooms to ensure better tidying.

Strategies like these save time and, more importantly, help free you up mentally.

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