Tip Sheet: (Don't) Get Used to It

How to hold on to that happy feeling.

By Laura Entis, published on November 5, 2013 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

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Why does the burst of happiness you get when your life improves rarely last—whether you start eating heirloom tomatoes, get a promotion, or marry your true love? The answer is "hedonic adaptation," the phenomenon in which you quickly get used to better circumstances. Recent research points to four strategies that can help keep you from habituating to happiness. —Laura Entis


Going without your favorite food or activity for a few weeks will help you savor it more, finds a recent study in Social, Psychological, and Personality Science. "We have to revirginize ourselves," says Jordi Quoidbach, one of the study's authors. He recommends a temporary-deprivation strategy for reappreciating everything from chocolate to sex.


Because we tend to take things for granted, it's helpful to picture our lives without an improvement. In her book, The Myths of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky advises going a step further: Try living as you did when you were a starving student or going without phoning your best friend. You'll appreciate your good fortune all the more.


Interrupting a pleasurable activity, even for a minute or so, makes it more enjoyable—it jolts us out of adapting to the experience. This applies to everything from massages to TV shows...even time off. Try multiple short trips rather than one long one, suggests Quoidbach, so you don't have time to adjust to the vacation lifestyle.


New research indicates that if you consider yourself an expert at anything—from fine dining to traveling—you will savor it less. Don't take yourself too seriously, offers Quoidbach. Having a jaded, blasé attitude toward wine, for example, can ruin even fine vintages for you.