Happiness Club: Week 4

Week 4 of the Happiness Club brings some new ideas to the table related to hedonic adaptation and how to thwart it. Hedonic adapation is the idea that everyone ultimately gets used to the things that they have, be it relationships or things or personalities, and this leads to a miscalculation about their happiness.

The podcast offers a contrasting view on solitude that may be surprising to the introverts (such as myself) of the world.

Rewirements this week include: sleep 7+ hours a night and get 30 min of exercise.

Science of Well-Being: Week 4

Learning Objectives

  • Understand that experiential purchases are a better investment than material ones

  • Give examples of intentional activities you can do to overcome cognitive biases and improve your mood

  • Practice healthy habits like exercising for 30 minutes a day and getting over 7 hours of sleep a night


  • Exercise - 30+ minutes a day
  • Sleep - 7+ hours a night


Part 1 - Rethink ‘Awesome Stuff’

Dr. Santos demonstrates that investing in experiences leads to more satisfaction and helps to eliminate the annoying habit of social comparison. She shows research that other people also like being around the types of people who invest in experiences over material things and have higher opinions of them.

Part 2 - Thwart Hedonic Adaptation

  • Savoring
    includes: retelling the experience to others, seeking people to share the moment with, being completely in the moment (flow)

  • Negative Visualization
    envision the ways that things could have gone wrong which would have stopped certain things from happening (relationship, college acceptance, etc). The idea is we realize all of the ways that we should be thankful that events led us to this particular event/person.

  • Make this day your last
    think about how life would be if you didn’t have certain things, draws your attention to what you enjoy about the good things in our life.

  • Gratitude
    write down 5 things you are thankful for each week, increases overall happiness, exercise, expectations of the coming week.

Part 3 - Reset Reference Points

  • Concretely observing
    Really see what the other half is like (grass is greener on the other side). Realize that fantasies are not always what we expect.

  • Concretely re-experiencing
    Can re-experience things that you didn’t notice before (ex: after getting used to new job with better salary, go back to trying to live at old salary to remember what life was like).

  • Avoid social comparison
    Dr. Santos on social media:

which is just called the Stop Technique, which is that sometimes you can be mindful and catch yourself doing these comparisons and you need to give your brain a moment to just like shut it up and tell it, it’s not supposed to be doing that anymore. And so, here’s the technique. You’re like looking through a Snapchat feed and you’re like, “Oh man, Joe is having such awesome weekend.” And you notice yourself doing that. You have a moment where you notice you’re making this comparison, you just out loud literally say, “Stop!” And that causes your brain to take a moment to be like, wait, it’s not the habitual thing you tend to do as your comparisons are working. And so it sort of forces you to do a stop think on things. And it sounds a little crazy but if you can be in that mode where you’re catching yourself doing this, you’re catching your own evaluations being about what other people are doing as opposed to absolutely about your own worth and your stuff, you force yourself to do a stop think. Sometimes that can have a powerful effect on breaking those kinds of connections.

In other words you have control over what gets in, but once its in we have a hard time not making comparisons.

She also says to just get rid of social media accounts.

  • Interrupt consumption
    Ex: commercials on TV actually make the show seem better because the show is more enjoyable than the commercials so we have a spike in happiness every time the show comes back. This effect is not seen when watching the same show without commercial breaks. Split a cupcake in half and eat it at two different times rather than all at once.
    Flipping this around, if we WANT to adapt to something that we don’t enjoy (homework, tedious task, etc) then it is best to do in a large chunks so that our experience follows the trend from large negative spike reverting to the norm.

  • Increase variety
    Breaks up the hedonic adaptation and also interrupts consumption. We tend to get into routines and lose variety and thus things become more boring to us.

Happiness Lab: Ep. 4 - Mistakenly Seeking Solitude

Episode 4: Mistakenly Seeking Solitude


Technology allows us to bank, shop and dine without talking to another human, but what toll is this taking on our happiness? The inventor of the ATM and the Talking Heads singer David Byrne join Dr Laurie Santos to explore the ways in which talking to strangers can bring us all genuine joy.

Episode Link

1 Like

I noticed the shift this week, too!

First of all, thanks for sharing your notes from the course. I agree with your comment on the contrasting view regarding solitude. I, too, am an introvert and value my solitude, so getting out of my comfort zone and seeking social interaction can be hard (but not always!) Personally, a little conversation is nice on an airplane flight, but I would much rather sit quietly and read for most of it. I know I need a balance of both human interaction and down time, and can usually tell when I’m not getting enough of one or the other.

A few points made in the podcast resonated with me. First of all, putting a name to that amazing feeling of having a meeting cancelled and all of a sudden you have “extra” time. Hooray for time affluence! But not all the time (then it would not have that same feeling.)

I certainly understand the line of thinking that, with every layer of technology upon which we become dependent, there is an opportunity/social cost as our human interactions decrease; however, I had not thought of the unconscious, unintentional (?)) social engineering effect that is taking place where a small segment of society is changing society as a whole into what they want to see/what they are comfortable with. It is a little frightening, if you think about it. There is a cost to that convenience. So, one of the things I have already been doing is that I do not use the self-checkout lanes in a store, unless that is the only option. After listening to the podcast, I am trying to take the tiny step of talking to the person in line with me at the checkout.

Finally, under the Learning Objectives and Rewirements for the course, I have heard about the advantages of experiential vs material purchases/gifts, so have tried to lean toward that a bit when asked what I want for a gift (and when giving a gift) over the past couple years. But I am not as good at the 7+ hours of sleep and 30 minutes of exercise!