It’s five days after you have opened your holiday gifts. The new bike has been ridden. You’ve eaten all the candy. You totally forgot about the scarf your sister gave you, which has been lost in the back of your closet. Your bath fizzies may still have fizz, but you have already lost yours.
Has this ever happened to you? Even the joy from your very favorite gift of all time doesn’t last forever. This is because of something called Hedonic Adaptation, also known as the Hedonic Treadmill. Hedonic Adaptation means that our brains adjust to new situations, both good and bad. It means that, even when really terrible things happen to us, our brains have a chance to be able to cope. Unfortunately, it also means that even if we were to win the lottery, we would not have unending happiness. We would just become accustomed to our new life circumstances. In this case, it means that it doesn’t take you long for you to adjust to your new presents, even if you have been given a great abundance.
Instead, what can be helpful to lasting happiness is participating in small intentional activities on a more regular basis. I touched on this concept when I talked about “Little Treasures,” small useful items I purchase weekly. With this in mind, instead of enjoying my gifts all at once, I keep them in bags and take out one thing a day. I like to start with the stocking stuffers unless there is something else I really need. So far, I have enjoyed two pieces of candy, a bath bomb, and a ring. Think of it like a reverse advent calendar. I have done this for the past three years.
Savored like this, my gifts last well into January; sometimes even February. Every time I take out a little something, I am reminded of the person who gave it to me and how they care about me. This gives me a deep feeling of gratitude. So, if you are a person who finds your holiday gifts losing their color after a few short days, consider giving this a try. It may seem a little odd if you are used to the euphoria of swimming in a sea of gifts right off the bat, but it will make perfect sense to your brain’s happiness in the long-run.