Author, Speaker, Addiction & Relinquishment Consultant, Relinquishee, Adoptee, MPE

The Hedonic Treadmill and Happiness

The hedonic treadmill theory explains our never ending pursuit of happiness in reference to someone trying to stay on a treadmill; they try and try, and keep going, only to stay in the same place the whole time.  Many people take the good things in life for granted and have the mentality that “the grass is greener on the other side,” and they think that money can buy them happiness.

The hedonic treadmill theory is a term coined by psychologists that compares our never-ending desire to pursue happiness to a person on a treadmill, who has to keep pushing and struggling just to stay in the same place.

We mortals quickly and unfailingly adjust to good things not by reveling in them and feeling endlessly grateful for them, but by taking them for granted. As we own, accomplish, and achieve more, our needs and desires for increased levels of happiness grow. We’re seldom happy with where we’re at.

In other words, the grass is always greener on the other side and we want to have it all and do it all. We quickly tire of our newfound baubles and successes, which essentially counterbalances the fleeting feelings of pleasure we experienced, causing those things to be worthless to us. Life on the Hedonic Treadmill leaves us constantly wanting and appropriating, thrashing to keep our heads above water and feeling unfulfilled.

What all of this means is that money cannot buy happiness, right?

Not so fast. There are those, like Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project, who suggest:

“The secret to using money to buy happiness is to spend money in ways that support your happiness goals.”

In other words, there exist some ways to spend money that can help give you enduring happiness.

Gretchen offers 8 ideas of ways to spend money to achieve happiness.

What’s the most straightforward way to step off the Hedonic Treadmill?

  • Forget about what “everybody else” is doing (or what the media is trying to make you believe everybody is doing).
  • Set your own path for happiness.

It’s as simple as determining what’s important to you and living your life in support of those things.

Many thanks to Credit Card Lowdown for including this post in their Carnival of Money, Growth, and Happiness.

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