The two things on my mind this fine Monday afternoon are hedonic adaptation and identity. Well, actually, there’s a bunch of other things on my mind, too, but those are the two most interesting things on my mind.

Hedonic adaption is… oh, how interesting. Well, okay, wikipedia says that hedonic adaptation, also known as the hedonic treadmill, is “the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.” The discussion in the wikipedia article seems mostly to suggest that we inevitably return to our happiness set point, and looks at hedonic adaptation in terms of the big picture events in our lives, ie marriage, disability, that kind of thing.

I’ve been thinking of hedonic adaptation in much smaller terms, basically just the human tendency to get used to things — to anything, really — and start taking it/ them for granted. If you drink a cup of tea at 4PM every afternoon, it will just be a cup of tea. If you have a cup of tea one afternoon out of the week and you schedule it and you plan for it and you really consider what kind of tea would be most delicious and you make sure to have actual milk available (if you like milk in your tea), then your tea will be a pleasure, a delight, a joy.

If the weather is 72 degrees and sunny for ten days in a row (it hasn’t been), on the tenth day, you’ll be thinking, “I wish it wasn’t so bright” or “this wind is so annoying” or “damn these awful caterpillars,” instead of “wow, this is so lovely.” Unless maybe you’re one of those people whose happiness set point is really high, but I am not one of those people, and I don’t think I’ve ever even met one of those people, so… (shrug)… I’m not sure we need to consider them.

Basically, human beings take the status quo, whatever it may be, for granted. We so much take it for granted that psychologists have been writing about our ability to take things for granted for fifty years! But taking things for granted gets in the way of happiness. Ergo, one way to be happier is to fight your own tendency toward hedonic adaptation. Variety is truly the spice of life. That’s what I’ve been up to this week and it’s been working wonderfully well.

Yesterday I had a delightful day. Why was it delightful? I don’t know. Just because it was. I changed the sheets on my bed and put new sheets on that I’d bought at Ross earlier in the week in the most impulsive, “I must own these sheets immediately” purchase I think I’ve ever made of sheets. Here’s a peek at my pillowcase:

a pillowcase with a print of the Eiffel tower on it

I wasn’t at Ross to buy sheets — I was looking for a towel, because I only owned one towel and towels turn out to be a thing where having an extra is really nice. It’s kind of pain not be able to take a shower because your only towel is in the washer. But I saw these sheets on an end-cap (the end of the aisle shelves); saw that they were full sheets, which can be hard to find; saw that they were $19.99; all in about ten seconds, and immediately picked them up and carried them around the store with me, hugging them to my chest. Mine!

Did changing the sheets on my bed really make me happy? Well… sort of? I mean, yes, I was happy that I got to have clean sheets on my bed, and happy that my sheets were pretty, and really, I was mostly just happy, and that was a piece of my happiness.

What else made me happy? Well, my breakfast was delicious, with lots of vegetables. Oh, and I have determined that spending $4.99 to have the good tomatoes is a totally worthwhile expense. This after a couple months of buying cheap tomatoes or having no tomatoes. But a few delicious tomatoes truly elevate a meal. Also! Expensive butter — totally worthwhile if you’re doing something with the butter where you can taste it. I bought Buy One, Get One Irish fancy butter at Publix last week and it is COMPLETELY different on popcorn than regular cheap butter. A different color, a different taste, and so delicious. Yeah, I had delicious popcorn yesterday, too. Hedonic adaptation suggests that I will start taking my delicious buttered popcorn for granted soon, but I haven’t yet.

Hmm, now I’m hungry. And I haven’t written about identity, and I haven’t written about today (also a delightful day) and… well, I’m in a mood where I could probably just write forever. But I’m being very careful about my sleep — one of the foundations of happiness, IME — which means I only have half an hour left in which I can eat, because if I eat later than that, I mess up my sleep. So I’m going to share one more picture:

a scenic water byway

This morning I took Sophie down to the river walk for our morning walk — fighting the hedonic adaptation of getting used to our regular walk and taking it for granted means changing up the walk, looking for new beautiful views, so that the familiar views have a chance to become new again, too — and it was so lovely. A beautiful day, a beautiful place, a nice breeze blowing, a delightfully happy dog bouncing along and being a very good girl. Hmm, word of the week appears to be delightful. Well, or maybe beautiful. Or maybe delicious!

And now I am going to go eat something delicious, which might even be popcorn, since I’m not yet hedonically adapted to that butter. Mmmm, butter. I’ll just have to write about identity someday soon.