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The Common Happiness Trap: How to Avoid This Pitfall with 2 Quick Hacks

It’s like a thief  – and it only steals the most precious things in your life.

It’s able to distort your reality and trick you into eternal misery…

This may sound like some nightmare to you but happiness researchers know it’s all too real.

Dubbed the “hedonic treadmill”, it describes this vicious cycle you and I often fall prey to – without ever consciously knowing it.

It’s largely unheard of in the general population. But understanding it can help you live a far happier, more fulfilling life.

How it operates

First, we must realize that we as humans are bad at predicting:

1)  what will make us happy and

             2)  how long things will make us happy.

For instance, when a new iPhone comes out with brand new features, some people just can’t wait for it…  “It’d be faster, I’d be able to take better pictures, it’ll be waterproof.”   

But not long after having the new phone, we get used to it all.

Somehow, being able to FaceTime underwater at the beach just loses it’s magic  it becomes a part of ordinary life.

We’ve all experienced something like this before, and it can be innocent enough; however, what happens when we increase the stakes?  

What happens when we make big life-decisions, based on this flawed mentality?

If we could upgrade the car, if we could get a newer TV, we’d just be happier,” we say, explaining the long-hours spent at the office.

But a Princeton study on income and happiness has proved that having more money won’t make you more satisfied…

Not long after having the extra money you’ve worked for, you get used to all the things you once considered luxuries. 

You are no more happy than before, and that time spent away from your loved ones can never be earned back.

You’re living your life on the hedonic treadmill… chasing a goal you won’t reach.

Quick Ways to Conquer it

Step off the treadmill.  Realize that humans are built to make sense of new things and move on from them quickly.

Abandon the idea that purchases or more money will bring even the slightest bit of happiness into your life.  Buy experiences over objects.

Short vacations, day trips, and local events all offer a way to inject real happiness into your life.  

We look forward to events with anticipation, and we look back on them fondly – so there is no adjustment to be made.

You cannot get used to changing experiences, and they will bring you renewed happiness time and time again.

So, seek novelty and don’t let yourself fall into a routine that you become familiar with.

What’s the easiest way to do this? 

Grab one of those free city papers from a local storefront and head to the events section.  There you’ll find plenty to enjoy in your area and lots of things that you didn’t even know where going on.

Circle a handful of upcoming events like concerts, festivals, or shows and actually commit to going to them.

You’ll find yourself trying new things and looking forward to your next experience immediately. 

Alternatively, some Googling around may provide you with the events you need to get things going right off the bat.  

Either way, you do it, commit to trying new things, and spending time on experiences instead of indulging in upgrades.

You’ll find renewed happiness and thank yourself each time you do.

The Common Happiness Trap: How to Avoid This Pitfall with 2 Quick Hacks

James Emry

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APA Reference
Emry, J. (2017). The Common Happiness Trap: How to Avoid This Pitfall with 2 Quick Hacks. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 19, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/psychology-personality/2015/10/26/275-james-emry/


Last updated: 22 Jun 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 22 Jun 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.