Taking a Run on the Hedonic Treadmill

Just this morning I got an email from RunBristol that the official route for my 10k was posted online.  It looks fine—quite level which makes me happy—but I haven’t been running that much recently.  After an extremely sore leg from Soul Cycle and a week full of yoga classes, I haven’t gone running in nearly two weeks.  But that’s okay.  I’m just looking to complete the race, not to be the fastest runner or beat time x.

This post, however, is not about running.  Treadmill should probably indicate a running discussion and hedonic sounds bad.  I probably would have thought so to, if it wasn’t explained to me.

I first read this term in The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  Apart from being one of my favorite books, the text offers lots of small ideas that can help change your outlook and boost happiness just from reading.  One of those, at least for me, was the idea of taking a run on the hedonic treadmill.

The hedonic treadmill doesn’t involve running and may involve little to no exertion on your part.  Basically, the theory is that when we don’t have something for a while—say good coffee or quality croissants at our beck and call—the next time we receive them, we will experience a greater happiness and greater reward.  So the first croissant I eat when I go home will be the best, but the one I eat on the last day will only be so so.  We assimilate our expectations to what is available to us.

I didn’t think much of this as I read it on the Heathrow Connect and got my first views of a surprisingly sunny England.  I didn’t think much of it as I ate my depressingly stale croissant (though butter flavor-y) and drank my sub-par coffee from Paul in Paddington Station.  In fact, I only first thought of it standing in front of the “fresh produce” section at Sainsbury.  By that time jet-lag induced exhaustion had come to overly fog my mind and make me ready to cry at picking up a bundle of asparagus.

And then it hit me.

These two last months before summer break?  I’ll be running on the hedonic treadmill.  The next year that I’ll be in Italy?  I’ll be running on the hedonic treadmill.  The month that I just spent at home?  I was running on the hedonic treadmill.

Though this could have made me sad, thinking about the deprivation, it actually made me extremely happy.  Sure, things might be a bit difficult right now, but they will get better.  England, and Bristol, will become my rainy norm and New York, when I return, will be my Emerald City.  The croissant will taste fresher and the coffee bolder.

So, for right now, I’m enjoying the renewed novelty of having a microwave and the thrill of sleeping in a double bed.  I’m loving the long long days, even though it means I have to go to sleep later.  Okay, maybe the first mile on the hedonic treadmill will be tough, but after that I think I’ll enjoy the run.

Are you running on a hedonic treadmill for anything right now?  What are you most looking forward to?

if you want to read more about the hedonic treadmill, check out the website for The Happiness Project.  Gretchen Rubin has some amazing posts, I’m sure you’ll love it!

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One thought on “Taking a Run on the Hedonic Treadmill

  1. Pingback: A Fantastic Read for this Quasi Expat: Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin « emilialiveslife

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