Humans can get used to just about anything. Isn’t that amazing? We are great at hedonic adaptation – also known as “getting used to stuff.” After an adjustment period, we can recalibrate our happiness even in unfortunate circumstances. We adapt when a family member becomes ill or when we move to a new place. We can adapt to budgets, exercise routines, less money, new diets, etc.
Well, it turns out that when a person jumps to a new level of material convenience, he loses the ability to enjoy the things he previously thought were pretty neat. A cold Bud Light was once a true delight after a work day for the lottery winner, but after the win he quits the job and takes up high-end scotch, poured by a personal butler. Both serve the same purpose, and the pleasure is about the same. Similarly, when moving down the hedonic scale, either voluntarily or involuntarily, we can learn to appreciate simpler things with just as much gusto as we would have appreciated more expensive things. I truly love the sound of the wheels of my bike slicing through the quiet wind on an open road, just as much as I enjoyed the whirring sound of the gear-driven camshafts and the rich tuned exhaust note of my old VFR800 motorcycle.
There are tons of things over my lifetime that have changed for the better of our environment: people use reusable bags, bring refillable water bottles, drive smaller cars, drive electric cars, buy more organic foods, and more. Ten years ago, would you have shaken your at the idea of carrying reusable bags or a refillable water bottle? A habit that once seemed like a burden is now normal, and we’re happy to bring bags or carry bottles. I’m getting myself in the habit of reusing produce bags. What’s the point of grabbing a new bag for lettuce each time I’m at MOM’s, when the bags I got last time are practically good as new?
In general, I think we underestimate our adaptability. How often have you balked at the idea of changing your habits, routine, or lifestyle? We’re used to doing things a certain way, and we don’t always question the why. Why do people commute many miles in expensive cars by themselves? Why do we buy new clothes each year? Why do we throw so much away?
What are some ways you’ve changed, that 5 or 10 years ago would’ve seemed impossible? What purposes do your habits serve? How could you change them to something simpler with less impact on the environment?
I have a few personal examples… and I want to hear yours! What environmental lifestyle habits can we adapt to?
It’s Screen Free Week – how hard would it be to adapt to a truly screen free week??
Eva works at MOM’s Central Office