Like or not, we are all impacted by the Hedonic Treadmill (also known as Hedonic Adaptation).
Hedonic Adaptation – the theory that states that humans have the tendency to return to a relatively stable level of happiness, despite any positive or negative events or life changes.
The theory is simple, and it is sadly true. As one increases their input of what makes one happy, it is simply a matter of time until one’s expectations follow.
In summation, two scientist named Brickman and Campbell founded the theory of the Hedonic Treadmill in 1971, which essentially says, “no matter what happens, in the end we will inevitably return to our predisposed emotional state of ‘neutral.'” Sure, it has been tweaked and different sub-theories have been created, but the idea is still the same: we seem to be a species that adapts, which signals intelligence, but to what extent?
As we all know, new things get old fast – we live in a culture where we are trained to want “the next best thing” at all times. If you attain something you’ve been striving for – lets say an A on a test – you might be happy, but for how long? Five minutes? An hour? A day? Eventually, our predisposed emotional state that is 50% dictated by genetics and the rest by our actions, will take over. We are shocked, we adapt, and we move on – it is an emotional cycle we all know too well.
However, adapting to the things we once desperately desired at the rate we do, is not particularly healthy, nor is it unhealthy. Let me explain: this adaptation can be interpreted as ambition, but we all know unrestrained ambition can lead to fatal casualties (cue Macbeth). However, ambition also leads one to success – the end result is often reached.
I find that few individuals truly appreciate what they have, whether it is experience or something materialistic; humans adapt and want more; everyone is eager to achieve. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? Is Hedonic Adaptation a necessary part of human nature?
How Does One Avoid This?
If I’m being honest, no one has the perfect answer. However, I have personally found it helpful to be grateful. Whether the things one has or the things one has done has been earned or given, one must always be thankful – it could be a hell of a lot worse. The little things are often overlooked, and in my opinion, those are the things we should be appreciate the most.
For example, I take the place I live for granted. I see it as a swamp with two seasons: hot and hotter. During “hot” you see old people driving 40 MPH in a 60 MPH zone, while in the Summer you feel like you’re going to have a heat stroke the second you step outside. But that’s just my perspective. Some risk their lives to reach the place I call “home,” and others call “paradise.” I have fallen onto the Hedonic Treadmill with something that is so simple, I often overlook it. I take it for granted. Even if I say I’m thankful today, tomorrow I will most likely forget this feeling of awareness and jump back onto “The Treadmill”, but that’s okay.
One can’t be happy if one hasn’t been sad. Like any other emotional state, the feeling of happiness is something that fluctuates time and time again – that’s not to say one shouldn’t be grateful. Give thanks. Give a compliment. Whether it be for a split second or for an hour, help someone jump off this “Treadmill” – help yourself jump off this treadmill. Returning to neutral is not a bad thing, but neither is staying on cloud 9 for a little bit longer.
I hope this made you more aware or maybe even helped you understand yourself better. Finding out about this topic definitely helped me. Education is the one thing no one can take away from you – use it to your advantage. If you have any opinions/ questions/ comments make sure to leave them below!
Dariana Mia ♡