Stepping off the Treadmill: How to Break Free from the Hedonic Grind

where are we running?

Without careful reflection, we can find ourselves endlessly running on the hedonic treadmill. This is not the kind of treadmill that will get you working up a satisfying sweat. In fact, it’s the kind of treadmill that will keep you in a steady state of dissatisfaction.

Hedonic treadmills are the human tendency to adapt to new experiences or material possessions quickly, resulting in diminishing returns in pleasure over time. We then seek out something even more pleasurable, inevitably adapt to that and then seek out the next big thing. Our sense of pleasure has a little spike then gradually returns to baseline, meanwhile, we may throw more and more cash in the direction of pleasure in the futile hope of finding enduring satisfaction.

Sounds a bit bleak, right? Fortunately, there are some easy fixes to break free of this cycle.

smartphones, decades and treadmills

If this seems a bit abstract, here is a concrete example: you need only look in your pocket. Or perhaps, you’re fixated on it right now as you read these words.

I am referring to the smart phone.

If we were to look at the smart phone we used 10 years ago, we might not recognise it. In fact, if you were like me, you might not even have had a smart phone. And yet, many of us take for granted the pocket super computer we carry around with us almost everywhere. If we could jump back in time to 10 years ago and tell our ourselves of the wonders that await them in just a decade, they would likely be amazed.

And yet, few of us really take the time to acknowledge what an amazing device the modern smartphone is. What’s happening here? This is hedonic adaptation. If you’re one of those people that discards a smart phone in reasonable working condition in order to get the release that came out yesterday, you’re likely running the treadmill.

And it’s not just smart phones. We may do this with cars, homes, and dining experiences. The benefits of breaking out of the hedonic treadmill is expending less for the same, perhaps even more, amount of satisfaction.

taking a break from the treadmill

To escape the hedonic treadmill and truly enjoy life’s experiences, it is essential to cultivate mindfulness and be fully present in the moment. By being aware of our surroundings, engaging our senses, and embracing the here and now, we can enhance our enjoyment and create lasting memories.

1. Practice Mindful Indulgence: Instead of mindlessly rushing through pleasurable activities, take the time to fully immerse yourself in the experience. Imagine it was the last time you were enjoying this treat. Whether it’s savoring a delicious meal, enjoying a sunset, or listening to your favorite music, pay attention to the details and savor every moment.

2. Gratitude and Appreciation: Cultivating a sense of gratitude for the present moment can significantly enhance our enjoyment. Take a few moments each day to reflect on the things you are grateful for, and let that gratitude infuse your experiences with a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation.

3. Letting Go of Comparisons: Comparing our experiences or possessions to others can fuel the hedonic treadmill. Instead, focus on your own journey and embrace the uniqueness of your experiences. Remember that true happiness comes from within, not from external validation or material possessions.

By adopting a more present and mindful approach to life, we can create lasting memories and derive greater satisfaction from our experiences.

The hedonic treadmill is a silent but powerful force that can rob us of true enjoyment in life if left unchecked. By embracing the present and savouring every experience as if it were our last, we can break free from the cycle and find genuine happiness and fulfillment. By cultivating mindfulness, gratitude, and an appreciation for simplicity, we can escape the treadmill and embark on a journey of lasting satisfaction and contentment. So, let us make a conscious effort to live in the moment and fully appreciate the richness of life’s experiences.

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