I enjoy eating dark chocolate after my evening meal. The only time I don’t eat a few squares is when I’m away from home travelling. Which happened recently when I went to Sri Lanka. This meant a couple of weeks without getting a post-dinner sugar rush. It’s a tough life.
On my return home it was a real treat to experience dark chocolate for the first time in over 2 weeks. We’ve all experienced abstinence and how it affects our senses. Likewise, we all know how the excitement of something new wanes over time. The latter is the psychological phenomenon known as hedonic adaption. It does surprise me that the majority of people don’t know about this critical feature of the mind.
A concise way to explain what hedonic adaption is, is to say: Abundance is the enemy of appreciation.
The more you experience something the less appealing it becomes. It just becomes normal. I’ve never flown in a private jet before but if it was a regular occurrence then over time it wouldn’t be particularly interesting.
Needless to say, abstinence for many isn’t a choice, living on a budget means that many of life’s luxuries are unaffordable or consumed rarely as a special treat. But for those of that that can choose, I would argue that having less is a more enjoyable way to experience life.
More, more, more
We all want more. More money, more house, more instant content to binge watch. Wanting more used to serve us well, as accumulating resources was a valuable survival tactic to prevent starvation. Now it’s a redundant feature of the brain that prevents us from appreciating life.
So think for a minute. What can you consume less of so that you appreciate it more? Less chocolate, less alcohol, less coffee? Or maybe video games and streaming content? Whatever it is, in comparative terms, most of us are spoilt and there’s something we can cut back on to make us appreciate life’s non-necessities that little bit more.
If you agree then you’ll probably enjoy the following podcast: bestselling author Michael Pollan tries to get more out of life by temporarily giving up one of his pleasures.