We seek happiness by pursuing pleasant things. We do get it, but can we sustain that happiness we envisage once we are there? NO! We cannot. The human mind has the power to adapt – joy is short-lived, and success seems futile and mundane. As a result, we begin seeking something new, and the cycle repeats. This is like running on a treadmill – trying to raise the speed and inclination but still stuck in one place – ‘the Hedonistic Treadmill.’
HEDONISM dates to Ancient Greek Philosophy with Cyrenaic—a school of thought led by Aristippus of Cyrene in the 5th century BC.
Running after happiness [Hedonism] can have two facets.
*We work hard to achieve things in life and do not stagnate by giving up on our pursuits. But we do appreciate our accomplishments.
*We run after horizons in search of happiness like a Mirage. We often need more than satisfaction, raising our physical and mental strain. We are successful yet unhappy.
PSYCHOLOGISTS say that humans tend to hit their baseline. There is a relatively stable level of happiness and subjective well-being regardless of situational or external conditions. This is also known as – HEDONIC ADAPTATION. No matter what, we return to our starting point or ‘set-point’.
Someone asked me, ‘Are you happy?’ I replied, ‘I am not unhappy.’ My baseline is a subtle emotion in which my psyche is satisfied and willfully gratified. Hedonism brings laughter and tears, but a quiet mind brings permanent satisfaction.
Sometimes we confuse happiness with remorse. We elevate our standards and formulate ideals that we think, if accomplished, will give us an emotional kick . . . exempli gratia — When she does not meet me, I feel desperate and sad, but I am not thrilled when I am with her . . . When I am not at a social event, I get FOMO and depression, but when I attend the function, I feel insignificant . . . I get thrilled about buying a new sedan, but when the car arrives, my happiness dilutes within a week . . . I desperately waited for my NRI brother, but when he came, my exhilaration was subtle after the initial few minutes of hugging, kissing and social formalities . . . etcetera.
Hedonism eludes and confuses us. The happy hormone – ‘Dopamine’ which surges in the brain, rendering pleasure and satisfaction, dilutes quickly, leaving an emotional deluge of wanting something new or an opportunity to feel the thrill.
Hedonism can be – Spending time with someone you love, consuming culinary delights, listening to lovely music, binge-watching OTT or movies, exploring the unknown and travelling, having meaningful dialogues with people of your intellect, indulging in Yoga and exercise, and leading lives with passions and fulfilling dreams.
All this, however, requires a facelift and constant change to nurture interest and desire. There is a philosophical belief – ‘these pleasures are the highest form of goodness and should be our primary goal in life’. I like to challenge this philosophy because if these are the primary goals of our lives, then why are we unable to incessantly nurture our emotions and thoughts without any hitch or glitch?
FIVE Ways to Escape the Hedonic Treadmill —
*Stop concentrating on the consequences and destination – Push your mind and heart to enjoy an exquisite journey. Dreams and enthusiasm peak upon reaching your destination.
*The human mind toils and slogs for what it does not have. He thinks of supremacy as achieving his desires. The truth is eluding, and the opposite is happening. Pleasure and contentment lie in expressing gratitude for what we have.
*Start your thinking with – ‘Why’ . . . instead of ‘What.’
*Shun chronic irritation and public grievances. Grief nurtures unhappiness within and forces us to rely upon false expressions of delight. The moment we achieve a truce within ourselves, the sorrow vanishes.
*Spend meaningful time with people who talk about common sense and morality. Even a child can titillate your grey cells and make you feel emotionally and mentally eloquent.
The human mind is tuned and programmed to feel that comfort and luxury are the principal necessities in life. The truth is that everything we need for happiness and contentment is something to be enthusiastic about. Our experiences and lessons contribute more to happiness than material commodities.
Running constantly on the Hedonistic Treadmill is prone to accidents and mishaps of nasty proportions. It leaves behind misery and a life-long mental disability.
“There has to be a balance between short-term pleasures and long-term happiness for one’s well-being to remain intact.”