Anna Lembke’s “Dopamine Nation” has a lot of interesting takes on the subject. One takeaway I got is that dopamine seeks a balance. Opting for pleasure seeking often ends up getting experienced as pain. An example of that is drug tolerance. Oddly, the reverse is also true: seeking pain can often lead to an experience of pleasure. The invigorated feeling after a cold shower, or how hard exercise leads to highs.

She is a great podcast guest, too. Her approach - that the people with the strongest addictions can tell us a lot about how we seek pleasure - has a lot of depth to it.

Oh yes Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This article kind of mixes different definitions of happiness. There’s the constitutional reference which comes from ancient greek roman philosophy and its origin is Aristotelian

Happiness as “Evdemonia” in Aristotelian scripts (Eudemonia in wikipedia) which more accurately translates as having “good demons” with you, which can be interpreted as feeling content/lucky for what you have.

Happiness as “Joyfulness” which is smily face marketing and instant gratification and hedonistic stuff aka buying the new iphone each year and getting bored at it and buying afterwards the next one because under a microscope the photo of the dark side of the moon looks better, when somebody else takes it.

So if one needs to repeat escalate: hedonism usually exploited by marketing, if you need to pay probably a facade of happiness and unfulfilling. Hedonism is nice to have tho.

If one is feeling lucky for his life and future: happiness aka lucky for parameters of ones life that would be deemed important 300 years ago and should be important in 300 years, conative with a sense of purpose. usually exploited by social and political systems ( be happy you need good health, very expensive if politics fights life) happiness is a must have

This article conflates one definition of happiness to the other while only discussing affective optimisation of hedonism.

"Commercial breaks––people actually enjoy TV more with commercials." I've never enjoyed being disrupted by commercials nor has anyone else. This is why Tivo became so popular
Shameless plug, I wrote an article recently on how the hedonic treadmill affects development culture [1].

In my opinion, good approach to avoiding the hedonic treadmill is to think in “processes” rather than “goals.” If you achieve some goal, you get back to the equilibrium and get used to it. But if you’re on a journey, there’s nothing to adapt to as every day is a journey and brings something new. So it's like smaller pendulum swings every day instead of big ones every few months.

Nonetheless, I like the ideas proposed in this article and think they also are quite effective.


Not directly on the treadmill, but removing things that regularly create unhappiness really creates lasting uplift. There is no adjustment that brings back proper misery again.
The ultimate hack is weaning yourself off the pull of the hedonic treadmill itself. And the best way I’ve found for that is to optimize for meaning. Of course, meaning is a difficult goal that is individual and prone to change.

However, it is also a lot more robust than the desires generated by the treadmill. Another way to think about it is learning to practice being content where you are (however imperfect) and sinking your attention into things that engage you and leave you feeling energized.

The treadmill will always be in the back of your mind, but it isn’t fit to drive.

If you get degenerative chronic illness are you eventually just as happy as you were before it? No, we figured this out in the 70s.

Why is "Hedonic Treadmill" forced into blogspam titles like these? Was there a TED Talk recently?

> Variators are little modulations that keep experiences fresh

So...variety? Mind blown.

I think you can simplify this.

Consider your wants and needs.

Most of us get stuck in our wants. We want to get a promotion, we want a nice car, we want a perfect family vacation.

But do we need any of those? Not necessarily.

We get stuck on the treadmill by not knowing the difference of our wants and needs. When you realize you don’t need the things you want, you focus more on the things you need.

Introspection in my opinion helps you find your inner happiness in discerning your needs from wants. This is why many ancient philosophers believed you can be plenty happy with “enough”.

The idea of hacking the hedonic treadmill misses one important point: the mind adapts to these hacks as well. And now you are looking for more hacks.
I like these hacks, it’s also a mindset that needs to be at the forefront of all of this, why not eudaemonia over hedonism? Ive been interested recently around eudaemonia, Whilst i’m familiar with some of its stoic principles im just barely scratching the surface,

this is just my take, but there’s noticeable patterns within literature in subjects such as minimalism, buddhism and stoicism. All pointing towards eudaemonia over hedonism. Sam Harris in his Waking Up Book / App covers this hedonic treadmill well too

we don’t embrace the impermanence of things

we’re programmed in the western world to be constantly chasing desire, these hacks build gratitude, which is a trait in eudaemonia,

thanks for sharing

Coder philosophy drivel has truly ascended to the level of high art.
"Commercial breaks––people actually enjoy TV more with commercials". Maybe most people, but i hate forced commercials. I rather pause the video, do something else for a while and resume the video.

"Setpiece escape room experiences, like climbing into a coffin " I have been in a real coffin a few hours once for a halloween fright night. Pretty comfy things. Felt quite relaxed.

Because that line about preferring commercials completely rang false to me, I followed the's from 2010...

"You still haven’t accounted for the popularity of, say,The Sopranos and all the subscription-channel programs. Don’t we pay to get those shows without commercials?

Contemporary shows like The Sopranos might be interrupting themselves. Remember, it’s not the commercial that increases the enjoyment, it’s the interruption. These shows often run six or more parallel plots and constantly shuffle between them. One plot interrupts another.", that entire concept has, IMO, been disproven by the rise of streaming services.

> flight of beer

First time I've ever heard it called that - and I've had several.

Another important thing is context.

Would you enjoy a pizza you found on the floor, or would you be imagining that it probably fell on a sidewalk loogie and has coronavirus on it?

Games used to have LAN parties. People used to watch stuff together more. Many activities had annoying prep work that could be considered like grinding in a game, but in real life.

Context makes or breaks entertainment.

Awareness of the hedonic treadmill meshes quite well with my 'frugal' Yorkshire tendencies.

A favourite on HN seems to be coffee, and spending ever more on 'good' coffee. I mainly just drink instant coffee, filter coffee for the weekend. I still get my 'good' coffee and I appreciate it. Same goes for wine and chocolate.

It's also led me away from expensive experiences to unique/different experiences.

It's also helpful for informing new purchases. Do I need the latest car with all the bells and whistles or can I just stay a generation behind and be excited with a new car with electric windows or whatever.

Give up on desire (including the desire to be free from desire) and you will truly be free.
> That afternoon when someone is staying with you and they go see another friend who lives in the same city and you go to work or stay home and do laundry or whatever

Great article, but this is a ridiculously hard to parse sentence with the number of `ands` and `ors`.

Subtitle: The case for wire-heading.
I would prefer not to.
just breathe
TLDR: Turn it into a hedonic rollercoaster.
Pretty sure I’d be happier if I didn’t have to work for a living.