Hedonic adaptation in humans is one of the biggest reasons we feel like we get stuck in a rut. Sometimes, we actually like the rut we’re in and we’re happy to go along with the “same old, same old” as long as possible. But all too often these ruts lead us to feeling dull, dissatisfied, and plain old down in the dumps. And, when that happens, then we really need to try something new. Unfortunately, this is exactly when hedonic adaptation rears its ugly head. No matter how many new things we try to make us feel better, we end up right back where we started, making trying something new (again) feel a lot more like running a treadmill than we’d like.
Because of hedonic adaptation, the more we get, the more we expect. So, when we buy something new, for example, we very quickly want something else new, and we’ll feel dissatisfied until we get it. This is one of the main reasons that so many people today report low levels of happiness, even when, especially compared to the rest of the world, they have so much more (and not just materially).
So, how do we actually improve our levels of happiness, especially when we’re fighting our hedonic adaptation along the way?
It all starts with variety.
While getting more might not make you feel happier, especially for very long, trying something new absolutely will. And, the more you try new experiences, the happier you’ll become. Of course, there is the caveat of those new endeavors being good for you, your health, and your mental well-being. You are looking for new, exciting experiences that light you up and make you feel wonderfully alive, not something new just for the sake of its newness.
Why does variety work at increasing your happiness? Because it changes your reference point, making your old “normal” relative. The more perspective you have, the better you’ll be able to see everything you really have. And, when that happens, gratitude increases along with your overall happiness.
Yes, routine is good for you. But doing any one thing for too long will leave you feeling stuck. And, when that happens, it’s impossible to truly experience your maximum amount of happiness. Don’t settle for feeling “okay” or “fine” when true, unwavering happiness is within your reach.
Here are three things you can try this week to start spicing up your life, and increasing your happiness for good…
Change something about your routine. If you’re used to coming straight home after work, try stopping at a park to read or walk for thirty minutes first. Changing your routine doesn’t have to shake everything up, especially if you have a family or partner that counts on you. Even small changes can yield big results.
Find a habit and break it. What’s one thing about your life or lifestyle you’d like to change? Maybe you want to exercise more? Eat healthier? Whatever it is, commit to doing something new that will help you achieve your goal. Just remember, take it one step at a time.
Do something you’ve always wanted. Take a moment to think about your dreams and passions. What’s holding you back? Start moving through your fear and mental blocks so that you can free yourself to try something new that’s been on your mind for far too long.