Discussing the “Adaption Principle.”

I often get this question –what motivates me to live this life with so much joy and happiness?! It’s almost like they expect me to be miserable all the time because I am disabled. And they believe that if they were in my position, they would not be able to cope. Let me tell you – this belief is false! Read below and I will try to explain why.

Jonathan Haidt has a book called The Happiness Hypothesis, where in one chapter he discusses something called the “Adaptation Principle”. According to Haidt, the Adaptation Principle shows that whatever lucky event or adversity we face, we get used to it. This was proven in a study showing that people who won the lottery and people who became paralyzed both returned to their baseline happiness levels after just one year. We get a rush of dopamine when something unexpected and pleasurable happens. But after a while the novelty wears off, and we adapt to it.

Here’s the thing – someone who experiences a catastrophically negative life change will experience the SAME EFFECT. Imagine you had a car crash and suddenly became paralysed one day. Initially you will be very upset because your life is turned upside down. All your goals in life will need to be re-evaluated. You may be asking yourself, “Why Me?” But just like with winning the lottery, you will adapt to your new situation. Initially, your happiness takes a massive hit. But, eventually it will rise back up to the baseline level that it was at before your injury. Stuff like rehabilitation will help you to learn that life does not end when you become disabled. You can still live an active and fulfilling life, just a little differently than before. You make new goals for your new circumstances in life, and it’s rewarding when you make progress toward those goals.

This is why it doesn’t make sense when many able-bodied people say, “Oh if I was disabled, I wouldn’t be able to cope.” Yes, you would! You would adapt to it just like everyone else has. I’m not saying it will be easy. It’s not. But over time you will learn to come to terms with your new situation, and you will realize that disabled people can be just as happy as the able-bodied. Humans are an incredibly adaptive species, and just because something traumatic has changed a life, it does not necessarily mean that it will be for the worse. Disabled people can engage in as many activities and have just as an active social life as able-bodied people. So, there is no reason to believe that disabled people must be unhappier than able-bodied people. That is a big misconception.

Remember, what happens to you only plays a small part in how happy you are. The rest of your happiness is determined by how you choose to spend your time. So spend it wisely.



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