Hedonic adaption is the term given to explain how we adjust to our circumstances constantly changing. Generally, within 12 months, significant positive or negative life changes cease to impact our wellbeing and simply become normal.
So for example, if you take off in a caravan for the trip of a lifetime with your family, it’s likely that the novelty of not working and spending your time adventuring… will at some point wear off. While we appreciate how lucky we are, it’s really interesting how quickly we’ve adapted to our new life and both the joys and the challenges that come with it. If you see sunrise every day, it’s important that you savor it and consciously recognise and apprecaite how wonderful it is.
A study in 1978 analysed people who had either won the lotto, (which we all presume would give us a lasting and significant increase in happiness) or become a paraplegic or quadriplegic, (which we assume would diminish our happiness permanently.) Surprisingly, it was found that within three to twelve months both the lotto winners and the amputees had returned to their base level of happiness.[i]
Given that we often work so hard to change the circumstance; The role we’re in, the rate of pay we’re on, the working hours and conditions, we seriously need to factor in this research. Generally speaking, changing these factors will only influence our happiness by 10%, and even then, the impact generally fades within a year. Eeeeek – That’s scary!
To counter the effects of hedonic adaption at work or home, start to really savour the good things that happen. Much like enjoying the first bite into a fresh apple instead of just devouring it, then wondering where it went. Take time to acknowledge the joys, savour the successes and expand the positive effect they have by sharing them with friends and associates.
While travelling, we try to remind each other that this is an amazing opportunity and how lucky we are to be together. It doesn’t make everything perfect, but it certainly helps us to keep persepctive when we face the challenges. Whatever comes along, be it good, or bad, the process of hedonic adaption means you’ll get used to it. This makes it way too easy to take things for granted, so we need to really remind ourselves to apprecaite the things we have. Take photos, talk about the good things and amplify the positives, even when they are everyday positives like chips and gravy. (mmmmm. Chips and gravy.)
So when someone you know is taking things for granted, perhaps ask them “Have you heard about hedonic adaption?” Share the concept with them. Sometimes a little new information is a great segway to a new way of thinking. Good luck!
[i] Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Brickman, Philip; Coates, Dan; Janoff-Bulman, Ronnie
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 36(8), Aug 1978, 917-927.http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.527