: views from the Hill

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

C’mon, get happy: Experts say you can

Back in February, Greg Morago wrote an article for the Houston Chronicle titled, C’mon, get happy: Experts say you can.

At the time I noted in the book I keep in my back pocket, lefthand side: "hedonic adaptation"

I'd forgotten all about it until I was thumbing through the book this afternoon, looking up word references I'd forgotten, killing time.

"hedonic adaptation" -- an interesting idea.

There's a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. It basically means that people adapt and get used to things, she [Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at UCRiverside] said. Let's say you suddenly have less spending power. You feel less wealthy because you have less money in the bank. That's going to make you unhappy. What happens is that you get used to that. Our daily life is not determined by the size of our savings account. We'll adapt to almost everything.

In a similar way, people who have extraordinary fortune, win the lottery, get that high six-figure job, become accustomed to their new circumstances and instead of feeling euphoric about their change in lifestyle, soon discover life's the same old same old.

Hedonic adaptation is a good thing when your circumstances take a tumble. You don't, after all, want to be moping around forever because you had to turn in your Mercedes for a used Honda.

But, if you have had extraordinary good things happen to you, stop every once in a bit and reflect on them. Remember how lucky you are. Remember what a good life you lead. Don't let hedonic adaptation pull you down until your extraordinary life becomes just ordinary and you get the mopes because the sparkle's gone out of your life.

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