First of all thanks to everyone who has downloaded and rated our app! As I discussed in a previous post I have been checking how we are doing quite a lot (we are up at number 4 in the medical apps if anyone is interested). It provides a certain buzz to see if we have had some more downloads or good reviews. However, it seems like my initial response when I first saw our app out compared to my response to new jumps in the rating does not give me the same level of pleasure. Now, this could be because I am naturally miserable, but I don't think so---so what's really going on?
It got me thinking about the transient nature of happiness---how does what happens to us affect how happy we feel. Now, the app launch is great, but if I won millions on the lottery surely that we make me happy forever...
Money doesn't make you happy
Well it seems there may be some truth in the old saying that money doesn't make you happy. A classic study done in 1978 by Brickman and colleagues studied lottery winners. They found that the winners level of happiness tended to returned to pre-winning levels. The initial 'high' of winning disappeared relatively quickly and they stopped taking pleasure in the small things. They also got used to their new lifestyle so the pleasure they gained from these new experiences got less over time.
Unfortunately it gets worse, they also looked at people who had permanent severe injuries in car crashes. These people continued to be negatively affected by their situation and tended to idealise their past and compare it negatively to their current situation.
Familiarity breeds contempt
So why does the 'buzz' go. Well, as you may have guessed psychologists have a name for this: habituation. This is the process by which exposure to the same event or substance tends to result in a gradually reduced response. It may be obvious this happens to some people with drug misuse problems that start needing more and more of the drug to get the same effect. However, if we think about this a bit we all have aspects of our lives in which this plays a part; possessions, sports, collections and even relationships. (For clarification, as my wife reads this, I am still as terrified of her now as I was the day we met).
All is not lost....
We probably can't stop this happening, but knowing it may help when we feel fed up. It may be that things haven't got worse, it may just be we've got used to them. As I seem to be wandering from science to philosophy I'll stop there!