When was the last time you really appreciated what you really have? Perhaps you, like me have been caught on the ‘Hedonic treadmill’ It’s a phrase coined by two psychologists in the seventies to sum up a phenomenon called hedonic adaptation. Hedonism is seeking pleasure of course; hedonic adaptation refers to the ability humans have to adapt to both positive and negative experiences.
How do I know this? I wish I could claim hour of research in psychology but in fact it’s the premise of the brilliant (and actually extraordinary) new book by Catherine Gray, The Unexpected Joy of the Ordinary. Catherine believes that many of us are on an eternal quest for more. We want a better body, the ultimate relationship, the dream holiday, we crave to have our own home, so we rent, it’s not enough so we buy, that’s not big enough so we work hard for a larger home, and on and on it goes. As the book blurb says. ‘The everyday is the wall to wall humdrum we seek to upgrade, like a fifties carpet we long to replace’
Catherine is the award winning author of the incredible books The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober and The Unexpected Joy of Being Single. She intersperses her research into psychology and mental health with her own personal stories, many of which are poignant and funny. Theres no doubt that Catherine’s sobriety played a huge part in her ability to embrace the ‘ordinary’ and find happiness, not least because her anxiety levels decreased. Her debut book changed SO many lives and the title gets a mention in my TEDx talk Sobriety Rocks – Who Knew! because lets face it, none of us could ever have imagined the feelings of ‘contentment’ and actual happiness that come when you aren’t numbing everything out with booze.
What’s wonderful about this book is it encourages us to focus on gratitude, Catherine points out the joy of looking at sunsets, seeing dogs play on the beach, people watching and offering simple acts of kindness, like babysitting for friends or neighbours who have a baby and haven’t been out for ages.
This book made me reassess whether I have been living in ‘I’ll do it when’ mode, rather than appreciating what I have now. She doesn’t suggest we can’t enjoy the ‘extraordinary’; Who doesn’t love a fancy holiday, tea at the Ritz or a special party, but as she points out, for most of us, a huge percentage of our lives are spent doing ‘ordinary’ things, but we are not pausing to appreciate them
Among Catherine’s lists of ‘ordinary’ joys are; The sound of a cafeteria plunging down the coffee, researching hilarious chip shop names like ‘Oh My Cod’ The satisfaction of squeezing the last of the shampoo bottle and knowing you have another bottle ready to go, (gratitude) and assembling a flat pack…wait a minute that’s hell surely? Catherine says Persist, when it’s done you feel like an actual carpenter. Warning: This book could make your seriously happy!
The unexpected joy of the ordinary by Catherine Gray is published by Aster Catherine is a guest on my podcast end of January and listen to the original interview i did with Catherine about ditching the booze