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  • Writer's pictureCalvin


There’s that popular phrase called the “hedonic treadmill” that was coined plenty of years ago, which shows that human beings usually gravitate back to a set point, no matter how wonderful or how miserable their experiences are.  I guess this is one of those things that are for better or worse.  You can have all the riches in the world, become one of the most famous people there is on the planet, and have all the approval you need to feel validated for all of eternity, yet at some point your happiness level still slowly recedes back to the baseline of where it used to be.

Similarly, I daresay, you can encounter all types of horrors and misdeeds and someway somehow your happiness level also rises back up like the tides up to the normal level that it usually is on a normal sunny day.  I guess this is the way that human beings are wired, for better or worse.

Sometimes, I hear people who say that they want to break this trend and that they want to be free of this hedonistic treadmill, so that they can experience greater ecstasy and bliss and happiness.  There are many articles written about how to overcome this “hindrance” of the human mind.  How to break free of hedonic adaptation and really truly enjoy life for what it’s worth.  As if life isn’t enjoyable when you’re not feeling blissful or skipping down the streets of Manhattan publicly.

For me, I’m okay with being okay for now.  And when I encounter struggles and pain and displeasure, sooner or later, my happiness and comfort level also rise back up (fingers crossed, hopefully) to the usual set point.  Yes, I’m sure I am much more comfortable when things are going my way.  And yes, I do still hope and wish that things always go my way.  But alas, life is not like that.  And sometimes, regardless of what you do, your fragile house of cards about what life is supposed to be will come crumbling down.

In these cases, it’s easy to feel like you’re the victim and to blame it on external circumstances.  I guess in some cases, you’re not wrong.  Because there are many things out there that you can’t control, and sometimes no matter how good you think your intentions are, you will still end up losing something or everything that is dear to you.  Even in those cases, I would say that it’s a work in progress and it’s an important opportunity to learn and to roll with the punches.

And yes, to adapt to the circumstance and to adjust to what is meant to be happy or not.  I believe that we people are very resilient in a lot of different ways, and we find different ways to adapt under the stress and fire of inevitability.  I’d say that human nature and beauty is found under pressure and the ability to withstand the seemingly insurmountable odds that are stacked against all of us.

It’s something that is hard to explain and hard to put into words onto a simple blog post.  But I’d say that the hedonic treadmill is a part of our natural wiring for a reason.  It might be because we people don’t really need to be super happy all the time.  We don’t need to be jumping down the streets of Manhattan hooting and hollering like we made it in life and are on top of the world.  We don’t need to be posting twenty different photos on Instagram showing people just how awesome our life is.

Similarly, we don’t need to be crying alone in our bed into our pillow all day every day.  And we don’t need to feel like we should be angry at the world and a victim of our own circumstances.  I’d say that for many people, we have the ability to adapt and slowly (but surely) go back to our baseline level of comfort, regardless of what happens around us. 

This treadmill mentality has been given to us (again) for a reason.  And I’d argue that there really is no need to break free from your natural wiring.  If we don’t feel super ecstatic or blissful some days, that is perfectly fine.  If we get that promotion and we feel just (meh) okay about it, that’s perfectly fine.  If we win a sports championship and for some reason don’t feel as fulfilled as we thought we would, that is perfectly fine as well. 

I’d say that we all have the capability to surprise with our adaptation, sensibility, and the natural ability to thrive and succeed.  We have it all within us to figure out just what it is that we need.  And the treadmill is something that we can use to our full advantage, especially when we are in need of gravitating upwards to a better set point, such as going thru a divorce or a breakup or some sort of catastrophic loss.  Because loss is inevitable and it’s something we simply just have to deal with whether we like it or not.

So, I would personally welcome this treadmill mindset with open arms.  I am thankful for the ability to adapt and feel kind of just normal on both good days and bad days.  It’s not a bad thing and we don’t necessarily need to be looking for the next rush of adrenaline in order to feel awesome and fulfilled in life.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with looking for it, but at the end of the day adrenaline can only last for so long.

So please keep in mind that some things are just not meant to break “free” from.  And it’s okay to gravitate back to the way things were.  Because life is an open book and it’s not meant to be forced.  Whatever happens will happen and we all can cherish, appreciate, and move forward for the sake of everyone.  So, just put one foot in front of the other, and accept that the natural order will guide us through.

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