Gratitude keeps things fresh (DW#626)

Human beings are remarkably adaptable creatures. When something bad happens to us, after a while, we tend to get used to the new state of affairs and our happiness goes back to what it was before the negative occurrence.

This is good news, right?

This same tendency of adaptability can work against us when good things happen to us. When our circumstances change for the better – when we start earning more money, find a new love, buy a new car, recover from illness – we experience a boost in happiness and contentment. This boost in happiness though, is short lived. When the novelty or "newness" of this good fortune wears off, we get used to it and we get back to the same level of happiness (or unhappiness) that we were at before the good fortune.

Psychologists call this phenomenon hedonic adaptation. The dictionary defines hedonistic adaptation as the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness (or unhappiness) despite major positive or negative events or life changes.

So what does gratitude have to do with all of this?

Feeling and expressing gratitude for the good fortune in our lives prevents the tendency of hedonic adaptation. In other words, if we consistently show gratitude for the good things in our lives, we keep enjoying them afresh, we do not take them for granted and they continue to impact our level of happiness and contentment.

See if you can look around your life. What is something good that you take for granted? It can be an everyday thing. Notice it, feel and express gratitude for it and see how you begin to enjoy it again.

For me, it is the cherry tree outside my bedroom window. One of the reasons we decided to buy our home was because of the many trees that surround the house. The cherry tree in particular. It is a beautiful mature tree that changes with the seasons – blossoms in the spring, cherries in the summer and bare branches in the winter. Every morning when I open the bedroom window, I pause and see it as if for the first time. I notice how the tree changes with the seasons, and say a silent thank you for having the blessing of this beautiful tree to look at first thing every morning.


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