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One of the biggest barriers to happiness

This is Science Today. We tend to adapt fairly quickly to things that don't change, such as living in a new house or getting a new car. Positive psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California, Riverside says we adapt much less to things that are changeable or more dynamic, such as relationships, but even then, Lyubomirsky's studies have shown that we can adapt to those, too.

Lyubomirsky: For example, our studies showed that people get a huge happiness boost when they get married, but then that boost lasts for about two years on average and then people go back to their previous baseline.

Narrator: This is referred to as hedonic adaptation - that is, the phenomena that human beings adapt very quickly to positive change in their lives. Lyubomirsky and her colleagues are conducting studies on this subject.

Lyubomirsky: I argue that hedonic adaptation is actually one of the biggest barriers to happiness because how can we ever become happier if we adapt to everything positive that ever happens to us? And so we really need to consciously and actively use strategies to try to thwart or slow down or forestall that adaptation.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.