It’s true that people tend to adapt fairly quickly to positive changes in their lives, Lyubomirsky says. In fact, adaptation is one of the big obstacles to becoming happier. The long-awaited house, the new car, the prestigious job – all can bring a temporary boost, but then recede into the background over time.

Why does this happen? One reason, Lyubomirsky says, is that we evolved to pay more attention to novelty. For our ancestors, novelty signaled either danger or opportunity – for a new mate or food, for example. We’re attuned to contrasts, not sameness, but that also means we readily adapt to positive experiences that happen to us, Lyubomirsky says.

“I argue that you can thwart adaptation, slow it down, or prevent it with active ways of thinking or behaving,” says Lyubomirsky, who after moving to Santa Monica, Calif., found herself adapting to her beautiful surroundings. To counteract this trend, she put effort into appreciating the view she saw when running on a path overlooking the ocean. She says she now savors that view daily, trying to see it “through theeyes of a tourist.”

To help thwart adaptation, you can also use novelty to your advantage. For instance, if your home has become a little ho-hum, you might try rearranging furniture or hosting parties for a variety of friends. Voluntary activities like these are most effective because they require you to pay attention, Lyubomirsky notes.

Advertisements