Hedonic adaptation is the tendency for happiness (or sadness) gained too quickly to revert to a person’s normal level over time. The idea is that people have a set point of happiness that they’re at, and permanent changes to it aren’t likely to come from novelty.
An example of this is a lottery winner who experiences a rush of happiness but notices it balancing out over time. Or the rush of enjoyment after purchasing a new phone, only to return quickly to familiar levels of happiness.
One of my weaknesses is novelty. This can come in the form of visiting a new restaurant, trying out a new beer, visiting a new city or country, or scouring the web for new things to read. While this isn’t something I’d want to do every day, it’s something that can build, then a lust of that activity emerges. Once satisfied, it quells and the hunger for it goes away.
If you’ve ever been on a long trip and just wanted to relax for a while at home, you likely know what I mean.
The “reset” idea came from a comment on Reddit.
I’d never connected this desire for novelty with hedonic adaptation, but it does share the same happiness gain that builds up — just in a different way. One way to think of these experiences is as a “reset”, where the trip, yard work, or other activity is a high or lows which make you appreciate what you have. For me even a morning workout can help reset the day, and make the rest of it seem that much easier.
There are many ways to do this reset that I would love to some day be more familiar with as well — meditation, yoga and other self-reflection. Whatever your way is of resetting, if you understand how it helps you, it’s easier to make sure it’s a part of your life.