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

Happiness is a state of mind

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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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.

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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Imposter syndrome

It occurs when we feel that we don't deserve our successes and the rewards that come along with them.

We believe they’re caused by luck, timing, or other factors outsi...

Stop feeling like a fraud
  • Once you’ve identified the confidence culprit, tell someone. Choose someone who sees you outside of that environment
  • Remind yourself of all of your achievements
  • Remind yourself that the people who got you here are incredibly competent and they did not make a mistake
  • Update your language with more confident, assertive phrases
  • Reframe your story by writing it down
  • Try mentoring
How to Develop Habits
  • Focus on just one habit, for 30 days.
  • Put it on paper, together with your motivations, obstacles, and strategies for overcoming them.
  • Commit fully, pr...
attributed to Aristotle
attributed to Aristotle
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Confucius
Confucius
“Men’s natures are alike; it is their habits that separate them.”

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Think of Yourself Less

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.  - CS Lewis

Self-esteem that is bound to external success can lead to small spurts of happiness but is no...

Be Busy, but Not Rushed

Research shows that feeling “rushed” is a one-way street to stress and unhappiness. Too much boredom can be burdensome. 

To find a balance, learn to say "no" to opportunities that do not excite you.

Be Proactive About Your Relationships

Do:

  • Check-in regularly with good friends (around 2 weeks for very close friends).
  • Celebrate the good things in their life; let them know through active and constructive listening. 
  • Studies show people love hearing themselves talk and talking about themselves, so let them.

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The Real Career Landscape
The Real Career Landscape
If you can figure out how to get a reasonably accurate picture of the real career landscape out there, you have a massive edge over everyone else, most of whom will be using outdated convention...
The career pitfall
Careers used to be kind of like a 40-year tunnel. You picked your tunnel, and once you were in, that was that. You worked in that profession for 40 years or so before the tunnel spit you out on the other side into your retirement.

Today’s career landscape isn’t a lineup of tunnels, it’s a massive, impossibly complex, rapidly changing science laboratory. 

Why Career-path-carving is important.

Time. A typical career will take up somewhere between 20% and 60% of your meaningful adult time.

Quality of Life. Your career has a major effect on all your non-career hours.

Impact. Whatever shape your career path ends up taking, the world will be altered by it.

Identity. We tell people about our careers by telling them what we are.

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Studying happiness
Studying happiness

Religion, philosophy, and the arts have long considered happiness a subject important to study. 

The sciences, however, have only recently caught up:...

Subjective well-being = Genes + Circumstances + Habits
  • Subjective well-being is preferred by social scientists instead of happiness because it's not so vague and subjective. 
  • Research shows there is a big genetic component in determining the baseline you always seem to return to after events sway your mood.
  • Circumstances could make up between 10- and 40 percent of your subjective well-being. But their effects never last very long.
  • The one variable that affects long-term well-being and is under our control: habits.
Habits = Faith + Family + Friends + Work
Constant happiness comes from human relationships, meaningful work, and the transcendental elements of life:
  • Faith doesn’t mean any faith in particular. Just find a structure through which you can contemplate life’s deeper questions.
  • When it comes to your family and friendships and how they should be, just cultivate and maintain loving, faithful relationships. There is no magic formula.
  • What makes work meaningful is not the kind of work it is, but the sense it gives you that you are earning your success and serving others.

2 more ideas

Asking For Help
Asking For Help

Not wanting to seem weak, needy, and incompetent or like we’re taking advantage often keeps us from asking for help, but that’s often an overblown fear caused by our tendency to think the worst....

Seeking Help Is Strength

By taking an active step in seeking help or advice, you’re actually taking control of your life, and not letting external circumstances (such as what people think) affect how you behave and perform. It is courageous to accept your weaknesses.

How to overcome burnout
  • Prioritise Nourishment.  Get quality rest, eat food that will fuel your body's recovery, exercise gently, get fresh air and also nourish your heart.
  • Acknowledge You...