“Since these conveniences by becoming habitual had almost entirely ceased to be enjoyable, and at the same time degenerated into true needs, it became much more cruel to be deprived of them than to possess them was sweet, and men were unhappy to lose them without being happy to possess them.”
The phrase hedonic adaptation, or more commonly, hedonic "treadmill" captures a sad reality of the human experience. The more we have of something, the less we tend to appreciate it. We can all relate to this phenomenon, yet it remains a huge disruption to our feelings of happiness and satisfaction. We try to work harder and run faster in order to get happier, but it never does any good, because we end up back where we started. No matter what happens to us, good or bad, we always adapt to apathy, and seek the next thing.
Disney with it's vault *, and McDonalds with its McRib, are very familiar with the hedonic adaptation. By strategically depriving consumers of some of their products, they ensure it remains in great favor so that they continue to sell big when "released" again, and provides endless marketing opportunities. Let's get into it!
Covid19 may have taken things away, like our regular routines, experiences, and other opportunities, but there may be silver lining in our intentionality about our approach to happiness!
*does Disney's vault still exist, with the Disney+ streaming service?? I'm not sure...
Hedonic adaptation can be graphed as a function of perceived happiness and time (see above). It suggests that, If not kept in check, the good experiences (peaks) and bad experiences (valleys) that happen in life are temporary, and always tend to revert back to steady state of happiness- no matter what happens. But notice the flip side! The adaptation also works to our advantage during tough or challenging times. "Time heals".
Consider typical life "peaks": first getting a drivers license, graduation, buying a house, big promotion. Typical valleys? Loss of a loved one, a bad breakup, demotion or loss of job. Take a moment to think of your own peaks and valleys. Do you get the same excitement and feeling when you step into your car as you did when you first bought it? Do you value your independence now like you did when you first got your drivers license? Chances are, both of those former peaks do not provide the same jolt of contentment they once did.
OK, you get the idea. So what are some ways we can use this to prevent making the pursuit of happiness like chasing rainbows, while also using it to our advantage during the "valleys"?? Let's take a look at happiness first
Is it time to redefine happiness?
Happiness is an electrifying state, as depicted in the GIFs above. Yet, happiness seems to remain extremely elusive! Philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and even economists have struggled to define it. There is an entire branch of psychology --positive psychology— dedicated to exploring what it means to be happy. More than simply positive mood, happiness is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of meaning and deep contentment.
We tend to think of happiness is something that happens as a result of a future occurrence like a promotion or a new car. Or that, maybe if we surround ourselves non-stop with all of the things that make us happy all the time, that we will indeed BE HAPPY ALL OF THE TIME. But hedonic adaptation strongly suggests otherwise.
Easy ways to step off of the hedonic treadmill
Instead, happiness should be an intense and INTENTIONAL focus on the present, while carefully choosing our pursuits based on that experience. Here are some intentional hacks to help us break that cycle.
Practice intentional daily mindfulness. Think back to a few of the peaks in you have experienced. Try to relive those moments and let them renew your gratitude. For example, remember the new independence and excitement from getting your drivers license. Or think back to the day you met your spouse. Develop a gratitude habit
During the "valleys", or times of scarcity, adapt by cutting out all things, all at once, rather than gradually. This can help to usher in the adaption upward sooner, and helps adapt towards "neutral" sooner rather than dragging things out
Develop "engineered scarcity". Since contentment for something grows with absence, it would make sense that giving something up or going with less of something we value should foster some level of happiness. Start with little things, like eating out, restricting dessert or alcohol, or whatever makes sense for you. Ideally, the object of this "dopamine fast" will start with something that will result in better physical and mental health.
Choose VARIETY, wherever possible. If there is variety in routines, skills, or food, it is much harder to adapt and become complacent and adapting to the status quo! Variety is the spice of life
Modify your goals/aspirations. Try to gauge whether your goals are oriented around a huge perceived "peak", like buying a brand new car, or a peak that is closer to "neutral", like buying used. That BIG peak, may turn into a BIGGER valley. After the excitement of the new car wears off, you realize the bigger payment, higher maintenance costs, and insurance were way more than that car is actually worth to you, and contentment/satisfaction takes a drop that is out of proportion to it's peak. The used car would've produced a smaller peak, but may not have fallen, leaving you with more freed up capital for other ventures!
Value experiences over material things! Experiences carry a memory, a tangible story, and a chance for learning. They take on this property of uniqueness that makes it MUCH harder to adapt to.
We should all be more like this guy on any metaphorical treadmill in our lives, (not real ones. You'll hurt yourself. Badly). Notice how he steps off for a bit, just enough so he can keep the good vibes going! You do the same!
Until next time...
Typically, we use the squat as part of a strengthening or HIIT style workout. Today, we're going to go over how to use it to identify mobility deficiencies, and then get started on a corrective plan! The squat is truly a jack-of-all trades in strength and mobility.
We encounter the squat motion in some manner many times throughout the day - any time we descend into, or stand up from a seated position, it is a coordination of basically all major movement systems and muscles in the body. Factor in all derivatives of the movement, like having to lift something heavy, or single leg loading - getting out of the car, going up and down stairs, etc, the squat comes into play in virtually all human movement.
The squat is unique in that it involves a TRIPLE FLEXION - the ankles, knees, and hips all flex at the same time. This is why we use the squat to pinpoint muscle imbalance and weakness that contribute to chronic injury and inefficient movement patterns. It is also the same reason the squat is so fundamentally beneficial in any lifting program, from the desk jockey to the athlete who needs to be ready for anything.
However, the same attributes that make the squat great, also contribute to CHRONIC INJURY if forces are not properly channeled through the big muscle engines in the hips and legs. If the spine is not in a neutral position, or the knees roll forward over the toes, and/or buckle inward, both are at risk for aggravation at best, or worse, tissue rupture.
Here is a basic procedure to use in identifying areas of need
Introducing: The Overhead Squat Assessment
The Overhead Squat Assessment is used to identify possible movement system impairments
and if there are any overactive and underactive muscles relative to other muscle groups that
may participate in specified movement. A muscle is determined to be underactive if it is in a
shortened or lengthened position that prohibits a normal response. This weakened response
ultimately leads to an altered or compensated movement pattern. Interestingly, the overhead
squat is the only total body movement that is supported with research for correctly identifying
How to perform an Overhead Squat Assessment
You must have a mirror for this self assessment at the very least, but it's the best if you have a superfriend, loved one, or anyone else around with a camera to take pictures from the front, side, and posterior and then compare them to the pictures below. Or, simply use voice commands on your phone to take a picture.
Side view faults
Front view faults
Posterior view faults
If you are exhibiting any of the above impairments, you may have a lot of untapped strength at best, and going down a path to chronic tissue disrepair at worst. The fix can be quite involved, and take a long time, especially the asymmetric hip shift seen in the bottom right picture (posterior). However, the most common faults are: 1) excessive forward lean, 2) knees buckling inward, and 3) feet turning out. The guidelines below are a really good starting point for addressing these faults:
Perform this routine daily (I supported with web references, for now). Reach out to me if you would like further help (see below)
For help on this, please feel free to reach out to me email@example.com for virtual coaching! I'd like to help you get through it.
Welcome back! Today we're talking about ENERGY, the tendency to let it dictate exercise frequency, and reasons why that's NOT a good idea.
You can probably recognize two phrases depicted by the images above. "putting the cart before the horse", or "going against the grain" is used in reference to something that is done in the wrong order, or unnecessarily difficult. For many, this is how they would describe EXERCISE (the horse) and ENERGY / MOTIVATION (cart) while all of life's pushes and pulls (the grain) are leaving us drained. All too often, exercise is shunted when energy is perceived as low, and reserved only for times when conditions are perfect (IE, almost never). After all, life always has a way to sap energy, good and bad, especially in these unprecedented circumstances.
There are many reasons to turn this paradigm on it's head. Let's explore why and how!
If exercise uses up energy, how is it also PRODUCED by exercise??
Backed by science!
This is not just an opinion, or empty advice that simply sounds good. It is heavily backed by science!
For instance, This study by University of Georgia researchers finds overwhelming evidence that regular exercise plays a significant role in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue. Researchers analyzed 70 randomized, controlled trials that enrolled a total of 6,807 subjects. They found strong support for the role of exercise in reducing fatigue. Patrick O'Connor, lead researcher and co-director of UGA Exercise Psychology lab, states “More than 90 percent of the studies showed the same thing: Sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to groups that did not exercise” O’Connor said. “It’s a very consistent effect.”
Summary of key findings:
The fruits of the labor
There are so many great reasons to shift that paradigm of "energy first, then exercise" on it's head! Many people are overworked, not sleeping enough, or have other energy-sapping factors. Exercise, especially LOWER INTENSITY, will lead to more energy. There’s a scientific basis for it, and too many reasons to do it.
If you would like help with exercise programming and a strategy to fit it into your day, the Optimal You Team is standing by to help! We're just an email away
Until next time!
Broad Scope Narrow Focus Blog
Welcome to the Broad Scope Narrow Focus Blog! I hope you find a lot of useful and applicable information as we explore the broad world of Wellness together. Check in often, as there will be new posts weekly! Enjoy