You’ve heard of the hedonic treadmill right? Just in case, Wikipedia says,
The hedonic treadmill, also known as hedonic adaptation, is the supposed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes.
I wrote about it before in The Property Ladder, a personal favorite post of mine. There are a couple of theories which attempt to explain the phenomenon of the hedonic treadmill. The first is the property ladder explanation which says that as soon as your circumstances improve, your expectations improve just as much leaving you in the constant pursuit of happiness which seems just out of reach (/wink). Another explanation, and a giant bummer, too, is that most people seem to have a pre-programmed, genetic “happiness set point” that defines their life-satisfaction fairly narrowly regardless of circumstances (unless they experience actual deprivation which decreases everyone’s happiness).
The kicker study that everyone associates with the hedonic treadmill is the British one which tracked the happiness of lottery winners and people who became paraplegic. Initially, the paraplegic people experienced a dip in their happiness, but years after these enormously life-changing events, both the lottery winners and the paraplegics were essentially no happier or less happy than they were before their lives changed. They all returned to their baseline happiness. Most of them within a month! Even being incarcerated which depressed inmates’ baseline happiness for the whole of the time they were in jail didn’t keep them from bouncing back to their baseline happiness after they were released.
The latest NYT article about hedonic adaptation suggested not wasting your money or your life on big, fat, expensive things like cars and houses and vacations (although reminiscing about vacations usually gives them a bigger boost in satisfaction compared to material goods). Instead, it suggests investing in a lot of simple pleasures, little self-pampering things that cheer you often like massages and date nights and lipstick luxuries. (For me, it’s fresh flowers in my kitchen, and going to nice restaurants.)
Why am I droning on about the hedonic adaptation? Because I want to assure you that all of this is BULL. Knowing rather too much about the hedonic adaptation theory, I have been carefully monitoring my life-satisfaction and happiness after the big move into the new house especially one month after said move. Now we are closing on 2 months in the new house, and I can affirmatively say:
I am happier every single day of my life.
This house makes me so happy. Beauty, beauty everywhere. I sing twice as much in this house, nay, probably four times as much as I did in the rental because I sound four times better in this acoustic. Every day making food for the kids is easier with them sitting at the bar out of my ever-lovin’ way. Every time I drive up to it I think, “What a handsome house!” and it makes me happy. Yesterday, Saltification walked into my bedroom and announced, “What a beautiful house we live in!” Salty was copying me. I often, even very often, walk into a room and announce, “We live in such a beautiful house!” or something like that.
Brushing my teeth is more pleasant in my new masterbath. Watching TV is more pleasant in the family room. Shouting upstairs to my children to “come down here and put on your shoes!” is so much more pleasant in my new mudroom. “Take your shoes off in the mudroom and put them in your cubby,” has become one of my favorite things to say because I have a mudroom! And they have cubbies!
Speaking of shouting to different levels of the house, this place is large with many inviting spaces such that the children aren’t always on top of my head begging to be entertained. I can escape them from time to time. They go out scootering and I watch from the living room while I read. They go out to the playset in the backyard while I cook and clean. They go downstairs to play in their wonderful rec room and art room while I work on the computer. This morning, for the first time in years, the boys did not come in to our room first thing in the morning with Salty demanding, “I want FOOD!” I found all three of my children downstairs playing Marvel Superheroes and watching My Little Pony before school, and I rejoiced in it. I almost cried.
I should also note, that in the same NYT article it talks about the research which suggests you get more satisfaction out of things if you spend time anticipating them. Book your vacations well in advance. Never waste wonderful anticipation capital by making a trip or a present a surprise. Save up for really great stuff instead of buying it now on a payment plan, or buying crap because that’s what you can afford. Well, I think that principle is at play here as well since I had a good 2 years of twirling the idea of a teardown around my finger, and then 13 months of actual building to anticipate and anticipate and anticipate. And tada!
I think the light in this house makes a world of difference as well. Even the basement is bright and cheery. The ceiling height throughout the house is awesome, too, and worth every penny–and there were many, many pennies devoted to ceiling height. I feel like I can breathe and stretch and see. Ahhh. I’ve missed several days of blogging just because I’ve lost the will to complain. Okay, that’s BULL, too.
I did miss yesterday blogging because I am scrambling to put myself, my house, and my family together for this weekend’s taping of the DIYNetwork show I Want That! This is not a September Fool’s Joke either. Cross my heart and hope to die, a crew is coming this weekend to film us trying out three awesome home gadget thingers in our new house for the DIYNetwork.
And double thumbs up on the final pick for dining room lighting. Exactly what I had hoped to be able to do with them this fall. Joy.