People get used to changes in life experiences, a process which is referred to as ‘hedonic adaptation’ or the ‘hedonic treadmill’. Just as the happiness that comes with the ownership of a new gadget or salary raise will wane over time, even the negative effect of life events such as bereavement or disability on subjective well-being tends to level off, to some extent (Frederick & Loewenstein, 1999). When this happens, people return to a relatively stable baseline of happiness. It has been suggested that the repetition of smaller positive experiences (‘hedonic boosts’), such as exercise or religious practices, has a more lasting effect on our well-being than major life events (Mochon et al., 2008).
Frederick, S., & Loewenstein, G. (1999). Hedonic adaptation. In D. Kahneman, E. Diener, & N. Schwarz (Eds.), Well-being: The foundations of hedonic psychology (pp. 302-329). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
Mochon, D., Norton, M. I., & Ariely, D. (2008). Getting off the hedonic treadmill, one step at a time: The impact of regular religious practice and exercise on wellbeing. Journal of Economic Psychology, 29, 632-642.