Why does happiness fade?

Ronald Siegel
Happiness (feelings of contentment or joy; the overall experience of pleasure, well-being, and meaning in life) can be fleeting. Remember how great it felt the last time you got a raise? Do you still feel the same elation about it today? Probably not. Psychologists have long noted the human tendency to psychologically adapt to new circumstances. Something that initially makes one feel happy soon comes to feel like the norm. The sense of happiness fades, and an urge to acquire the next bigger or better thing takes hold again. This can make the pursuit of happiness feel like walking on a treadmill, where you have to keep working to stay in the same place—and, in fact, this cycle has been called the "hedonic treadmill." For example, you may feel happy to buy a house. But the euphoria begins to fade as you see how much work it needs. Upgrading the kitchen feels good, but then the bathroom looks dated. The pleasure of accomplishing one task fades quickly as the desire for the next improvement arises.

Continue Learning about Emotions



Medical science recognizes a mind-body connection and that your emotions may affect your body's physical health. Being down or depressed can cause fatigue, aches, and pains. If you are having problems and are also stressed, it's a ...

good idea to let your doctor know. This can be part of the diagnosis. Seeking an emotional balance and developing some resistance to bad feelings can be an important step to improved health. Techniques to improve your emotional health can range from medication to talking with an advisor, eating healthfully or exercising.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.