Last time I wrote about the concept of “hedonic adaptation,” which is the idea that we get used to pleasurable things and eventually stop deriving happiness from them because they become a part of the normal way things ‘should’ be. Louis CK is one of my favorite comedians, and I think the following clip really captures the essence of hedonic adaptation:
I discussed using a Gratitude Journal in my last post to counteract this phenomenon and to increase happiness. Today I would like to share another technique that has some research support behind it.
This exercise is called Five Acts of Kindness. You already perform kind acts toward others, many times without them knowing it. Examples might include donating blood, making a small donation to a disaster relief effort, volunteering, feeding a stranger’s expired parking meter, bringing coffee to work for a coworker, smiling and asking the grocery store checkout clerk how her day is going, etc. The possibilities are endless and do not necessarily have to cost money. Here is the exercise:
Over the next week, choose a single day of the week to serve as your ‘kindness day,’ and perform five acts of kindness toward others on that day. Repeat this practice for at least four weeks. Be sure to keep a journal of this exercise listing the day and the five acts of kindness you performed.
Notice what effects this has on your sense of happiness and well-being and write about that too. It could be that you find a greater sense of meaning and purpose, increased happiness and well-being, and improvements in physical health. It certainly can’t hurt! I encourage you to give it a try.
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Buchanan, K. E., & Bardi, A. (2010). Acts of kindness and acts of novelty affect life satisfaction. The Journal of Social Psychology, 150(3), 235-237.
Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: the architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9(2), 111.