Hedonic treadmill and your happiness

Hedonic treadmill, this term was originally called ‘Hedonic relativism and planning the good society’ in 1971. The concept of hedonic adaptation, after 20 years, was compared to a treadmill and ‘Hedonic treadmill’ was born. 


So, what is the Hedonic treadmill? Let us take an example from our life to understand the concept. 


Have you ever been waiting for an online shopping delivery packet to arrive? You are eagerly waiting and the minute it is about to arrive, you are at the peak of your happiness. But as soon as you have it, you go back to the baseline of your happiness. It has been observed at no matter what emotion we face, whether it is rage, happiness, excitement, or melancholy, you always go back to your emotional baseline that is consistent with your personality. The hedonic treadmill is based on this idea. 


Every person has a set point of happiness. Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher says that ‘If people tend to have a low set of happiness, that means they are gravitating towards sadness’.


Brickman and Campbell did research on around 50 people, one who won huge lotteries and the other group who were paralyzed or injured. They found out that eventually, they reacted to good and bad situations but then moved back to neutrality. 


But through later studies by Ed Diener, 5 points came out.

  • People after being exposed to more happiness returned to their previous points. They adapted to the situation and the setpoint was more positive than neutral. 

  • The setpoints differ from person to person. 

  • A single person can have multiple set points. 

  • The level of happiness can last longer than usual. 

  • Individual differences are found in adaptation. 


Types of happiness

There are basically two types of happiness: Hedonism and Eudaimonia.

Hedonism means the pursuit of immediate pleasures like food or sex. Things that we do if we like or avoid if we don’t. 


Eudaimonia is the happiness we get when we do something for others, happiness which we get by doing meaningful activities


Eudaimonia’s happiness takes a longer time to return to baseline than Hedonism. 


Ways to lessen the effects of hedonic adaptation and increase the set point of happiness

  • Practice mindful meditation – guided meditations that help you to get a different outlook towards your problems and happiness. 

  • Build a better version of yourself by trying things that help you grow. 

  • Express gratitude to increase your level of happiness. 

  • Invest more in relationships and good social engagement. 

  • Engage yourself in acts of selfless services. It will give you authentic happiness that lasts longer. 


Finally, buy yourself French fries!. Nothing can beat that, isn’t it?


Knowing about the Hedonic treadmill and how to lessen its effects can give a brighter and more aware look at things in your life. It pushes you to understand that you can be happier. When you are happier, things are set in motion and not stuck. You have opened doors to new positive aspects and self-care