The Scientific Reason You're Never Satisfied (and How to Fix It)

Dacy Knight

We all know the euphoric rush that comes with acquiring something new. Whether it's a big purchase you've been coveting or a significant life change like beginning a new relationship or a new job, there's a spike in happiness and sense of satisfaction that comes with getting what we want. Do you ever notice that it's only so long before the appeal of the newly acquired thing or experience wears off and you're back to feeling how you did before? This is the all-too-common side effect that follows obtaining what we desire, and it turns out there's a scientific explanation.

Psychologists have named this phenomenon "hedonic adaptation." Whether the change is good or bad, you adjust to your new circumstances with time. Body and Soul recently examined how we can best address hedonic adaptation, saying it be understood as a double-edged sword. Just as it may keep you from appreciating good things over the long-term, it also protects you by allowing you to return to your baseline happiness in the aftermath of less fortunate incidents like going through a breakup or losing a job.

There are various ways to work through its effects to avoid constant dissatisfaction. If we know we can expect this phenomenon, we may be better equipped to realize our decreased enjoyment or interest has more to do with hedonic adaptation than actually falling out of favor for something. This is particularly true of relationships. Researchers in Germany surveyed over 800 married couples, finding that in the first two years of marriage, their happiness increased, but after the two-year benchmark, they regressed to their pre-marriage happiness level.

If you're aware of this shift in perception going into the relationship, you'll be less likely to blame the decrease in happiness on your partner or way of life. When approaching other areas where hedonic adaptation plays a role—making new purchases or tiring of your day-to-day life—recognizing the inevitable shifts and thereby making a proactive effort to appreciate what you have instead of wanting more can help you find renewed satisfaction in your current circumstances.

What are your thoughts on these findings? Do you have special ways you renew your sense of satisfaction with life as it is? Share your wisdom with us.

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