Your Defense Against Hedonic Adaptation - Gratitude

Years ago, I had an experience that changed my life.

My friend convinced me to backpack through India using as little money as possible. We traveled using local buses, we slept in small rooms, and we ate with our hands.

The highlight of my trip was when we entered a small town of ~100 people. Based on their reactions, seeing a group of foreigners probably wasn't too common on an occurrence there.  The energy and excitement of the people in this town was unforgettable.  As we walked down the main dirt path in the town, we felt like celebrities as everyone came out of their house to meet us.  

I was struck by the notion that this small town had no running water or electricity but yet everyone seemed so happy, vibrant, and full of life.  It was at that moment when I realized just how lucky I was to live the life that I live, where I live it.

Sadly, this feeling of gratitude did not last… After the trip, I fell back into the same trap of wanting more.  No matter what I accomplished in life, it was never enough.  I didn't feel lucky or grateful anymore.

Why does this happen? Why do so many of us fall into a trap of wanting more when we have more than enough?  

The reason: Hedonic Adaptation.  Feel good events such as getting a promotion or achieving a personal goal gives us a good feeling inside at first but these feeling don’t last.  The new purchase or achievement quickly becomes our new norm.  This is when we start thinking about the next big thing that we must have.  In other words, your happiness level rises and than quickly falls back to its normal levels.

The only way around this is to consistently find ways to feel grateful.

Gratitude is your only defense against Hedonic Adaptation.

Gratitude is about being thankful for what you have now and focusing on the positives that occur in your life.

Practicing gratitude is not as simple as it sounds.  In order to be successful, you need to make practicing gratitude a conscious decision and over time it becomes a habit that just occurs.  

At first, I struggled with my gratitude practice because when life got busy I kept forgetting. When life got stressful, I focused too much on the negatives of life.

Through self-experimentation, I found that ending each day journaling about three things I was grateful for worked best for me.  

After journaling about gratitude for a few months, my mindset has completely shifted. Rather than wait until the end of the night to identify what I am grateful for, it now happens in real-time.  Throughout my day, I focus on being grateful for things such as:

  • The sunshine beaming on my face

  • The laughter of my friends and colleagues at work

  • The opportunity that I have to make a positive difference in people’s lives

You can start by being grateful for:

  • Access to clean water

  • A roof over your head at night

  • Food on your dinner table

  • The Internet which provides you with information and education

Practicing gratitude has made my life so much better and I hope that it does the same for you.


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