whether it is keeping up with the Joneses via sexual selection cues or trying to overcome habituation with greater and more intricate examples of novelty and unexpected reward in our daily lives. It is a societal treadmill — linked to energy, resources, and environmental impacts. TaaL: Your U.S. Declaration of I ndependence considers “the pursuit of happiness” to be an inalienable right; there was— wisely — no declared right to happiness itself, which can be transient and elusive. These days, many dominant human cultures on your planet are materialistic, with modern “success” being defined by who possesses the most and best stuff. Yet like hamsters on a wheel, humans can run their entire lives in pursuit of “more stuff” without ever being satisfied. It’s simply a flawed parad igm, based on the fact that there was no need for tribal hunter-gatherers to evolve “satiation instincts” in a world which already limited everything they could obtain. From my (admittedly alien) perspective, it seems the majority of human resource use goes towards 1) novel experiences, 2) comparing what you do and have to others and 3) making more humans. You always “feel like” you want more stuff than you need. This is the sort of happiness treadmill you can run on forever without achieving the goal. Far better to step off the hedonic treadmill and just be happy with “enough”. Because the right to pursue irrational excess on a finite world isn’t inalienable... take it from an alien. And here’s another alien thought: reset your ratchet occasionally, to re store your own wonder and appreciation of all to which your brain has acclimated. For instance, spending a few weeks in the desert with little food and water, sleeping on the hard ground, sweating in the daytime and shivering at night, can make a modest cabin seem wonderful even if it has no electricity. Hiking a hundred miles can make you appreciate an effortless car ride. Disconnecting from rapid-fire stimulus by being away from the “info - grid” can re -attune you to the pacing of the natural world. Sometimes happiness can best be pursued by opting out of the ratchet. It’s important to remember that your evolved gene agenda doesn’t want you to be happy; it just wants you to pursue stuff that “feels” important. The Bottom Line: We are easily habituated to higher and higher expectations and experiences, and retracement to baseline becomes increasingly difficult. This phenomenon applies to all sorts of biological and behavioral situations.
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