This 2nd link has the concept of prestige mixed in with it:
I don’t know if the Hedonic Treadmill is real. I do know that happiness is certainly fleeting. Its ephemeral. Its that moment when you realize “hey, this feels nice”. Its that really good laugh you get when your best friend tells you a ridiculous story. Or when you are hanging out with that girl you had a crush on since freshman year. I have learned to treasure the neurological high i get from these moments because they don’t last. What goes up must come down.
It’s probably better that the high subsides. A permanent high would be horrible. Pleasure in excess ceases to be pleasurable. I guess this is what our brain is trying to protect against. Maybe the chemical rush of getting that new job or buying that awesome blazer has to subside. This is why heaven would suck. I don’t know if i want to be eternally happy. How would that even work? Sex works on the same principle. No matter how hot the person is they will eventually get mundane. There are many theories on why our brain developed this tendency to go back to a baseline happiness. No one knows for sure.
In physiology even receptors decrease in concentration when a stimuli is present for too long. It is called desensitization ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homologous_desensitization). I am not sure how to apply this theory of the Hedonic Treadmill to my life. I guess the first place to start is to know that material purchases of luxury items will not permanently make me happy. I guess the second lesson is that our brain does not necessarily want us to be happy. It wants us to survive. From an evolutionary stand point this Hedonic Treadmill must have given a survival advantage to those that possessed it. The people that didn’t have it did not pass on their genetic code. I imagine they must have been too happy to care about having sex. Or they were so happy they forgot how to survive and died. Maybe struggle and unhappiness helped our survival.
After learning about this theory i have more questions than answers. What if happiness is just a simple neurological trick that our brain does in order to keep us alive? Our brain tricks us all the time. Many scientist believe that consciousness is simply an illusion that our brain preforms in order to help us humans survive http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consciousness_Explained. Others believe that love is a trick to keep us pair bonded for long enough to have offspring. Maybe happiness is another trick. It probably wasn’t meant to last indefinitely.
Contentment is a better goal. It lasts for a much longer time than the quick chemical high of happiness. Contentment is irrespective of happiness. It’s that feeling of acceptance. Its the feeling of things being “good enough”. It is more an intellectual acknowledgement of things being ok. So instead of chasing happiness, maybe we should chase contentment?? I wish I had the answers. Why does our brain have to be so complicated?