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Hedonic Adaptation Prevention

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

I was recently reading about the Hedonic Adaptation Prevention (HAP) method concept in Sonya Lyubomirsky’s update article about her Happiness Pie Chart, and I simply couldn’t help but share it with you!

Before diving into HAP, let’s take a quick moment to review what hedonic adaptation is. Hedonic adaptation is the natural process where heightened happiness due to some new circumstance inevitably loses its shine, and your happiness levels return to where they were before the change occurred.

For example, the change could be getting married, buying a new car, moving to a new place, etc. When these positive changes occur, you get a boost in happiness. Then, over time, you get used to this new circumstance, it becomes the new status quo, and it no longer initiates that happiness boost.

That seems unfair! Why shouldn’t we continue to get happiness from a positive change in our lives? Well, that’s where HAP comes in. The HAP theory assumes that hedonic adaptation is not inevitable as long as you continue to interact with the new circumstance in a positive way that continues to boost your happiness.

It is kind of like feeding a fire. If you don’t add anything to it, it will burn out. You have to keep adding in resources for it to be a big, bright, pretty flame.

In the update, two routes are given to keep that fire of happiness going. The first route is a button-up technique. This requires you to pursue positive emotions, both varied and sometimes surprising. For example, this would be like taking regular walks in your new neighborhood if you switched homes and even holding the occasional dinner party.

The second route is a top-down method that involves avoiding the tempting thoughts of bigger and better. Going back to that new house example, the happy new homeowner should continue appreciating their new home and all its features rather than dreaming ahead to the next house with even bigger and better features. Why? Well, doing so diminishes the happy thoughts about your current home…thus, making the happiness fade faster.

Now, will the HAP method work forever? Probably not. BUT, you can get your biggest happiness bang for your buck by using this theory. And I quote, “The HAP model merely shows how to slow down this restless and relentless process, so that one can fully enjoy the life benefits that one has already earned.”

I’m curious, what experiences have you had with this theory? Send me a DM on social. I’m over at @everydayhappinesswithkatie

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