It Will Get Easier
These two ‘superpowers’ in your brain can kick into high gear during quarantine, making the adjustment more tolerable
With most of the country in a temporary quarantine, the abrupt change has proven to be an unsurprisingly tough transition. Even after we move past the current restrictive lockdowns, social distancing guidelines are likely to become the “new normal” for the foreseeable future. It’s a reality that feels both daunting and uncharted, but it will get easier to adjust to. That’s not just an optimistic point of view: It’s something that has been proven time and time again through “hedonic adaptation,” a psychological process in which people adapt so well to both positive and negative changes that they inevitably return to a stable state of happiness.
When applied to positive life changes such as finding new love, the phenomenon of hedonic adaptation is regularly touted as a negative side effect. It’s the reason new relationships may not feel as lustful after a while, or why the thrill of a job promotion tends to wear off after a few increased paychecks. But just as positive life changes are less potent when it comes to sparking joy over time, hedonic adaptation causes the inverse to occur when negative life changes come into play. Most people who go through negative life changes, like a breakup, will eventually climb back up to a stable state of contentment.
“When things stop changing so quickly, we’re able to start getting used to it.”
“We have to remind ourselves that adaptation is the rule of human existence, not the exception,” says Nick Tasler, an organizational psychologist and the author of Ricochet: What to Do When Change Happens to You. “Adaptation is the one thing everyone has been doing since the day we were born.”
For the most part, hedonic adaptation is a passive and automatic process — a psyche-saving system that happens all on its own in the background of the brain. How quickly we adapt depends on a few key factors.
“In the positive domain, to slow down hedonic adaptation, you want variety, surprise, and novelty,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside…