"If you live according to nature, you will never be poor; if you live according to opinion, you will never be rich."
— EpicurusTweet It!
Hedonic adaptation is the psychological explanation of how we end up in the rat race of life.
In their extensive research on the topic, Shane Frederick and George Loewenstein (who you may remember from our post on curiosity and “priming the pump”) coined the term.
Let’s take a step back for a second and look at those words.
Hedonic comes from the Greek word hēdonē, meaning “pleasure”. So you can think of this concept as the adaptation of our pleasure or happiness level.
Think of happiness as existing on a scale, with zero as “neutral happiness”.
When you really want something, let’s say a new pair of sneakers, you will fall below your neutral. You are in a wanting state, preventing you from being fully content with the present.
Then, the moment you get those sneakers, for a brief moment your happiness spikes. But not long after, the novelty begins to wear off.
A few weeks later, you see a friend with another pair that you realize you like more than your own.
The seeds of want are planted. And the cycle continues.
It happens with everything.
A new job. A higher salary. A bigger home.
We begin to take what we worked so hard for, for granted. Then all of the hard work, time and money that went into getting that thing become history, and our present happiness levels return to neutral — or negative.
“…Nature's wants are slight; the demands of opinion are boundless…Assume that fortune carries you far beyond the limits of a private income, decks you with gold, clothes you in purple, and brings you to such a degree of luxury and wealth that you can bury the earth under your marble floors; that you may not only possess, but tread upon, riches. Add statues, paintings, and whatever any art has devised for the luxury; you will only learn from such things to crave still greater.”
How do we beat the relentless return to neutral?
It all comes down to Gratitude, and our ability to shift our perspective from what we want, to what we have.
To finding contentment and fullfillment in all that we have,
Co-Founder, Holstee & Reflection.app
Begin your day feeling grounded and inspired.
A free 30-day email series where we share the most impactful stories and ideas that have helped us on our journey to live a more meaningful life.
✌️ Free. Unsubscribe anytime.
“I’m in the midst of big life transitions at the moment, chasing book deals, relocating, taking risks, carving out a life that feels honest, so your emails have been a perfectly timed source of inspiration and reassurance.” Jo in London, Great Britain
"Love the emails! They are a great reset or what I would call mindful chiropractic adjustment to approaching the day. Thank you!" Laurie in Albuquerque, New Mexico
"I love the emails. They give me a new perspective and things to think about and apply in my life." Monica in Johannesburg, South Africa
"It's food for the soul and sets my spiritual compass in the right direction." Farahdiva Samsul in Assam, India
"Absolutely LOVE the daily emails. One of the only email subscriptions I read daily. Keep them coming!!" Adriana in New York, New York
"The emails are thought-provoking and uplifting. A little pause from the crazy happenings of modern life. A quick chance to reflect, smile, and think about a life lived mindfully." Pharan in Queensland, Australia
"I have thoroughly enjoyed the Mindfully Mailed series. Daily I await this little nugget of goodness to hit my inbox each day." Tambria in Shreveport, Louisiana
Welcome to Holstee
Living with intention is an ongoing practice, not a destination. Inspired by this, we’ve created a range of products to help you on your journey to live both fully and mindfully, including the Holstee Membership, Reflection Cards, and our recently-launched Reflection.app.
This article is part of our series on the theme of Gratitude.EXPLORE Gratitude →
Inspiration and tools to help you live a more meaningful life.VISIT THE SHOP →