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  • Sunday Sanctuary

Keep A Hold Of That 'New Job' Feeling

Imagine if we woke up every Monday morning excited about our alarm, feeling the same way we did the first time we set off for our new job. Luckily, we have some tricks up our sleeve that can help you remember why you were so happy the first time you got the coveted 'you're in!' call, and with a little practice, make every day feel just as exciting.

Our mind is wired to get used to events, objects, and people, and it's one of its most annoying features when it comes to the great things in life. This phenomenon is called hedonic adaptation, and it's a term that describes how our minds adapt to the good stuff - so that eventually what once made us excited, doesn't make us quite as happy as it once did. A simple example is eating your 4th square of chocolate in a row - it's not gonna taste quite as delicious or be quite as satisfying as the first square was, even though its composition hasn't changed.

Unfortunately, hedonic adaptation can affect everything from our relationships, to our possessions, to our job satisfaction. But it's not all doom and gloom; the good news is that with a little intentional practice, you can recapture that feeling you had weeks, months, or even years ago when you first got the job offer (or got into a relationship, or bought that new TV), just to remind yourself of all the reasons you were excited about it then, and why you should be excited about it now, too.

Reset Your Reference Points

Reference points are inevitable, and whatever situation we find ourselves in we can always imagine how the grass may be greener on the other side. The thing we don't often do however, is look back to the times when the grass was dry, yellow, and horribly unkempt. As our reference points move subconsciously with each change in our lives, we need to make the effort to reset them manually and remind ourselves of why we are happy to be on our patch of grass, right here, right now in the first place (we can keep this grass analogy going all day long.)

Concrete Re-Experiencing

When it comes to work there will always be peaks and troughs, but before you start cleaning up your CV take a moment to remember all the reasons why getting this job made you happy in the first place, and - perhaps more importantly - why you deemed it so much better than whatever it was you were doing at the time. Whether you were unemployed, on a lower salary, or simply weren't utilising your skills as much as you could have been, thinking back to past moments when your current job was the epitome of your desires is called concrete re-experiencing. Some ways to put it into action:

  • Think about how your previous job made you feel (were you micro-managed, did you have worse hours, what is it about your old job that made you leave?)

  • Relive any financial strains you may have had - try living on your old salary/budget again for a week

  • Think about the skills you didn't get to utilise in your day-to-day, or any walls you hit in terms of progression (both professional and personal)

  • If your commute was worse, try and remember how much it irritated you

  • Remind yourself of toxic bosses/colleagues who you've since left behind

Looking backwards is really helpful for understanding how good we have it in our present reality, which brings us to our next method for tackling hedonic adaptation...

Concrete Observation

The flip side of looking backwards is a trick called concrete observation: really paying attention to what you do have. All those things you bragged about when you first got the job; a sweet office space, a nice pay bump, a laid-back boss, hilarious colleagues, flexi-hours, working from home opportunities, even something as simple as a desk by the window. When you remind yourself to pay attention to all the things that initially made you gleeful about your new job, there's nothing stopping you from observing them again and again through the same lens of joyful bliss/smug content - you just have to make an intentional effort to do so.

Practising Gratitude

Gratitude is a practice most of us let slip by the wayside - for some reason it just doesn't seem to come naturally - but it's a total game-changer for work and play. It can feel difficult in the depths of winter to feel even remotely grateful for having to go to work, when you miss your train, the next one is late, it's hailing down and you forgot your umbrella, and then the heating is broken when you get to the office. But if you just take a moment to pause and think about the positives (job security, a steady income, nice colleagues), suddenly it becomes much easier to appreciate your circumstances.

Emmons and McCullough (2010) found that people could change their subjective well-being just by thinking about things they were grateful for. They had subjects write down five things that made them happy every day for a week, and compared it to a group of people that wrote down 5 hassles, and a control group that wrote about 5 events, whether positive or negative. Those practising gratitude every day scored significantly higher than the other two groups, teaching us that there is a lot to be said for simply taking the time to think about how we have it good.

Final Note

If you're reading this article, it's likely that you fall into the category of 'human with a job', which in itself is something to feel fortunate about. The techniques we've discussed to overcome hedonic adaptation don't need to be limited to recovering that new job feeling; from personal relationships to material things, it's comforting to know that we can rekindle our love with everything we feel we've gotten use to, and begin to appreciate it in the same way as when it was brand new.

Further Reading


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