Saturday, April 02, 2016

Hedonic treadmill

I read this wonderful article here that talks about how we derive pleasure when we first upgrade our standards of living but eventually getting so used to the the experience through repeated use that it offers no more pleasure. In other words, you get back to the same pleasure level before you started this hedonic treadmill, and you have to go look for better and better pleasures, and yet getting nowhere. After reading the article, I learnt the name for such a vicious cycle. What an apt name!

But I say we can trick ourselves to hop onto the abstemious treadmill and derive greater and greater pleasure on the simple things. First of all, a dictionary definition of abstemious:

Abstemious (adjective)
1) sparing or moderate in eating and drinking; temperate in diet.
2) characterized by abstinence.
3) sparing

Abstemious, in other words, is the direct opposite of hedonistic. A hedonistic lifestyle would be to seek maximum pleasure, whereas a abstemious one would be to simplify and reduce. Now instead of seeking greater and greater pleasures and eventually getting numb to the new experience and thus hopping onto the hedonistic treadmill, I suggest we reverse the whole process.

I say we simplify our lifestyles and eventually we will get numb to the new experience of a simplified lifestyle, and we go on and simplify it further, leading to a virtuous cycle which I termed abstemious treadmill. I believe this is where we would really find a lot of pleasure in the little things that pop up because we're so used to so little. Imagine not having salt and sugar in your diet for 1 month. At first you'll feel that your food taste very bland, but after a while, you start tasting all the natural flavors of the ingredient. And once a while when you do eat food with just a little sprinkling of salt or sugar, you'll feel that it's very salty or very sweet. It's the same food we're talking about here but we're no longer talking about the same person tasting the food.

I mentioned this because there are people who thinks that living a frugal life is a very sad life. Earn and save so much money but you deprive yourself from enjoying the pleasures of life. Life is short, so YOLO-ing your life is not such a bad idea. But a frugal person is already jogging on a abstemious treadmill. He had reduced his lifestyle to something that is simpler than the people who are around him, and he is not suffering and yet he found great pleasures in it. How can the crowd who are invariably jogging on their own hedonic treadmill understand him?

Well, they can't. They will wonder what strange beast this frugal person is, and how different he is from the rest of the world, and how odd. Doesn't matter eventually, we're all running our own race.


Sillyinvestor said...


Nice post. If that state of nirvana cycle
Is too tough. Just go down 1 notch in "suffering" and release yourself ... Indulge and that go down that notch.

2 dial volume still better endless chasing

Sillyinvestor said...

I can. Definitely relate the point on natural taste ...
But I still
Need both lol

Haven reach that zen state yet

la papillion said...

Hi SI,

Haha, I agree, just go down one notch in each lifetime, and 'soon' you'll reach enlightenment :)

I've been drinking bland oo-long tea for the longest time, and now I will cringe even when drinking 'normal' soft drinks. Human beings can really adapt - the downside is that we adapt to both the good and the bad easily, haha!

Createwealth8888 said...

Eat while we can. When we become too old. Want to eat also can't. Too late to regret!

We have limited time to enjoy those thing when we can when we are younger.

la papillion said...

Hi bro8888,

You're going down mountain, but I'm going up the mountain, so our perspectives are different :) I'm sure when you're going up the mountain, you're thinking like me too!

desmond said...

abstemious treadmill ? i thought it kind of fits my current lifestyle. I had since weaned off coffee, meat, dairy products and eggs from my diet about 4 months ago. I have found a new level of energy and lightness within that was not experienced before. I have also started a new hobby - urban farming and find it is truly therapeutic and rewarding. The closer one gets to nature, the closer one gets to his inner thoughts (my 2c).... I now enjoy searching for DIY solutions which I can use for my gardening, exchange views with FB groups and experiment different planting methods.....

These are things I enjoy doing and could see myself doing more and perhaps on a bigger scale as time passed. I guess it takes time and different stages of life for one to be "awaken" internally and search for the true meaning of life. Simple, peace and nature is what I like and believe it would also influence other areas of my life.

la papillion said...

Hi desmond,

Wow, fantastic! I'll get to urban farming one day, but so far I'm just growing plants. I thought it'll be a good idea to be a little self sustaining and grow my own food one day. I'm happy that you enjoyed this simple lifestyle and I think it'll be suitable for me as well, haha!