What Is Hedonic Adaptation?

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What Is Hedonic Adaptation?

Hedonic adaptation is a big concept in psychology and means we return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. This human tendency to adapt to new circumstances (whether good or bad) is key to understanding how societies change and stay stable

At its heart hedonic adaptation is a psychological buffer, it protects us from prolonged emotional extremes and allows us to have a happiness baseline. While this helps us cope with adversity it also makes it harder to stay satisfied during good times, as the initial joy of new achievements or acquisitions wears off over time. Now, this article reveal some of the Hedonic adaptation states and effects on society.

What Is Hedonic Adaptation and How Does It Affect Our Happiness?

Hedonic adaptation is the psychological phenomenon where we return to a stable level of happiness despite experiencing significant positive or negative changes in our lives. This means that after the initial excitement or disappointment of an event fades, our overall happiness tends to revert to its baseline level. Winning the lottery, for instance, can make you incredibly happy, but among lottery winners, overall happiness levels typically return to where they were before the windfall. This adaption helps us to deal with both the good and bad experiences in life. But it also makes it very hard to be satisfied with any positive experience or change.

Hedonic Adaptation And Society

What is the examples of the Hedonic Adaptation? Well, for example people who succeed in hitting the jackpot prize in the most sought after lottery in the world experience high happiness levels at the time. However, psychologists say that the winners tend to go back to their old happiness levels after the excitement of the winning experience fades away.

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This can also related to some of the nutrition or longevity pathways. For example “insulin” is the main example for this regard.

The more exposure you get to any stimuli, the more resistant you become towards it. Let’s take insulin resistance as an example.

  • Your blood sugar gets jacked up there → and the pancreas pushes out insulin to lower it again. Normally insulin would open the cell doors to move that glucose into the glycogen stores but for awhile now the pancreas gets overwhelmed.
  • Then it can’t continue to pump out more and more insulin and your blood sugar levels stay up there for too long. You get insulin resistant – you don’t produce enough insulin to be able to handle carbohydrates properly.

We can easily say that “Insulin resistance” is one of the main driving factors of obesity and metabolic disorders in our diet.

What is a good example of hedonic consumption?

Good examples of hedonic consumption are designer clothes, art, luxury cars, tickets for concerts, sports events, etc., and vacations. In addition to an emotional reward, hedonic consumption can offer its users a feeling of pleasure and satisfaction. They also use products as a way of communicating and expressing their identity and values.

How Does Hedonic Adaptation Relate to Nutrition and Longevity?

Hedonic adaptation can affect our nutrition and longevity. For example, repeated consumption of foods that are high in sugar or fat can lead to “hedonic overload.” This occurs when we become less responsive to the rewarding effects of sugary or fatty foods, resulting in their increased consumption. A similar phenomenon occurs with insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Insulin teaches the body’s cells to become sensitive to insulin and to thereby remove sugar from the blood.

Hedonic Adaptation Example: Caffeine, Dopamine and Cortisol

Taking caffeine as an example, you begin by simply being quite content with one cup, then you increase your tolerance and need more to achieve the same effect. This is known as hedonic adaptation also known as the hedonic treadmill. It highlights how we adjust to a stable amount of happiness despite the positive gains or negative losses occurring in our life. Despite the lucky or catastrophic circumstances that we face, eventually, we’ll arrive at the homeostatic level of happiness we were at before

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Our Brain Is Still An Animal

We live in the modern world but our body thinks we’re still in the ancestral landscape. Because of this “evolutionary time-lag”, our brain is always trying to motivate us to eat the most evolutionarily valuable nutrients – salt, sugar and fat. Foods with carbs and fats have the highest calorie density and our body can store energy for the dark times to come. Unfortunately those times are happening less and less and these unnatural food combinations that make us eat more are available all the time. In nature fat is generally available in winter when we had to eat animals to survive, sugar and starch were available in summer and autumn.

There was no time when we had fat + carbs available in natural whole food but this is the signature of junk food that makes us overeat. The deadly combination of salt, sugar and fat is like a drug, it stimulates our taste buds in an addictive way and lights up the reward centers in the brain. Michael Moss’ book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us talks about how fast food companies have cracked the code of how we crave more food.

It’s called the bliss point – the specific amount of those 3 ingredients that optimizes palatability. Not too much nor too little but just enough. By themselves they’re not bad but together they cause conflicting metabolic and hormonal effects in the body that leads to diabetes and obesity.

That’s why some people can’t enjoy healthy food because their bliss point is too high. Refined carbohydrates, sweets, pastries and pizzas have overstimulated their taste buds.

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They can’t even feel the taste of anything less than that. To keep up with their primal urges they want to increase their sensations even more. Instead of being satisfied they keep craving for more and more. Another reason for binge eating is leptin resistance. It’s the satiety hormone that regulates the feeling of hunger. Leptin’s role is to signal the brain that we need calories.

Once we’re full it sends another message saying we’ve had enough. But if we’re leptin resistant then the lines of communication will be cut short and our brain will never get the message that we’ve received enough food. In this case the body is full but the brain is still starving and keeps on craving for more stuff.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, hedonic adaptation is that you sort of get acclimated to a certain stimulus and it becomes your new normal. You attain a new homeostasis. That can be part of the reason why wealthier countries tend to over-consume – they’ve simply gotten accustomed to the enjoyable and comforting nature of food. As an aware human being who seeks to optimize their health and overall life, you should want to pay close attention to where your hedonic homeostasis is. We’re always ascending and descending the hedonic ladder with some things making us less comfortable whereas others less. The level we reside on most becomes our new normal – the place where we feel best and satisfied.

Can You Give an Example of Hedonic Adaptation in Everyday Life?

A typical instance of hedonic adaptation is the body’s adjustment to caffeine. The first cup of coffee you drink each morning may produce a strong energy boost. But as you continue drinking coffee day after day, your body adapts to the caffeine and you find you need successive cups of coffee to produce the same effect. Your tolerance to caffeine has increased. This example illustrates how we often adapt to stimuli in our environment and need ever greater amounts to reproduce the same level of satisfaction that we experienced initially.

I teach people about the biohacks and science of optimizing their health and performance. I like to write about Philosophy, Biohacks, Supplements, and Spiritual information supported by science.

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