Hedonic Treadmill

This week, we will be discussing the Hedonic Treadmill, or hedonic adaption. The concept of the hedonic treadmill is that people’s long-term happiness is not affected much by short-term positive or negative events. For instance, a 2011 study indicated that most people’s long-term happiness level was not majorly affected by life events such as marriage, divorce or death of one’s spouse, though some people did experience a change. Other studies have indicated most people return to prior happiness level after the birth of one’s child, the loss of a job, or a stint in jail. That all being said, on average there is a long-term effect, presumably due to the smaller group of people whose long-term happiness level does change.

Of course, there are contrary reports of certain life events that can often have long-term effects on happiness. For instance, abuse, violence and addiction can all cause long-term mental changes. Perhaps the people who are effected by these events are more the exception than the norm, or perhaps these events have more net effect than the events listed above.

Is this bounce-back effect a real effect, or an effect of perception? Is there a difference, when it comes to the perception of an internal feeling like happiness? Is there anything we can do to affect our long-term happiness, if major life events rarely change anything? If not happiness, are there any long-term emotions that we can effect in ourselves? And if long-term emotions are unchangeable, what does that say about how we should direct our lives?