“If a person should transgress moderation the things which give the greatest delight would become the things which give the least.” – Epictetus
Hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill is the idea that we get used to our current level of quality of life. This goes for all types of pleasure and hardship, one of the easiest examples to use though it is not as accurate would be thinking about why we need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects after we’ve been doing it for a while. It’s also why when we make a lot of money, when we buy a big house or when we buy a big fancy car that’s really comfortable, why eventually, we get used to those things.
In each case, the opposite is also true. When we deprive ourselves of luxury, when we go without the creature comforts, when we take the path that is going to be more difficult, we also become used to dealing with hardship. We adapt.
But here is the kicker, when we choose to deprive ourselves of the luxuries of life even the small luxuries become that much more enjoyable. If we are disciplined in our diet, even a small treat is a luxury. If we are disciplined in our schedule, a small break can be a time of rest and reflection. If we discipline our bodies, difficult tasks become easier and more enjoyable. And if we discipline our minds and our emotions, time with friends and loved ones becomes far more meaningful.
More than just being more enjoyable because we’ve deprived ourselves of luxury, these things become more enjoyable to us because we know that we have earned them.