Can lasting happiness be achieved in the quest for sustainable fulfilment within HK’s fast-paced lifestyle and the illusion of the hedonic treadmill?

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AI-generated image for illustration purpose only.

29th March 2024 – (Hong Kong) In the heart of Hong Kong, where the skyline is a testament to the city’s relentless pursuit of progress and prosperity, a silent struggle ensues within its inhabitants. The quest for happiness, often equated with material wealth, prestigious jobs, and picture-perfect lives, has led many to step onto the hedonic treadmill, a relentless cycle where satisfaction is as fleeting as it is elusive.

The hedonic treadmill, a concept widely recognised in the realm of positive psychology, suggests that despite our achievements or acquisitions, our level of happiness tends to revert to a baseline over time. In Hong Kong’s context, where the pressure to succeed is palpable in the air we breathe, this phenomenon is especially pronounced. The city’s denizens chase after the next promotion, the latest luxury car, and the keys to a coveted property, hoping each will bring enduring contentment. Yet, the joy derived from these milestones is often transient, and soon, the pursuit begins anew.

This relentless cycle is fuelled by a culture that conflates identity with achievement and worth with wealth. In a society where one’s social standing is constantly on display, it’s no surprise that status anxiety pervades. Weekends and holidays, rather than offering respite, become mere pit stops before the race recommences. It begs the question: can one ever truly escape this endless pursuit and find lasting happiness?

The hedonic treadmill theory posits that our happiness is not solely determined by our external circumstances but is influenced by our internal state and perspective. In Hong Kong, where the external pressure to perform and conform is intense, the key to sustainable happiness may lie within, in our ability to appreciate the present and find joy in the non-material aspects of life.

In a city that never sleeps, where the pursuit of money and material success is a cultural cornerstone, the challenge is to step off the treadmill and onto a path that values experiences over possessions, relationships over accolades. To do so requires a paradigm shift—a recognition that while money can buy comfort and convenience, it cannot purchase joy or meaning.

The pursuit of happiness in Hong Kong is not merely a personal endeavour but a societal one. It requires a collective reevaluation of what we value and why. It calls for a culture that celebrates personal growth and well-being over mere financial success. It demands an environment where individuals are not just encouraged but empowered to seek balance and fulfilment in all aspects of life.

For those caught in the relentless cycle of want and acquisition, the path to sustainable happiness may involve cultivating mindfulness, fostering connections with others, and engaging in activities that promote well-being and purpose. It might mean finding solace in the city’s green spaces, embracing the rich tapestry of its cultural life, or giving back to the community.

In a place where the speed of life can be dizzying, slowing down might seem counterintuitive. However, it is in the quiet moments, away from the hustle and the bustle, that we can hear the whispers of our own contentment. It is there, in the spaces between our endless striving, that we find the happiness we’ve been running towards all along.

Let us remember that the most rewarding journey is not the one that takes us around the world in search of happiness but the one that brings us back home—to ourselves, to our values, and to the simple pleasures that make life worth living. It is on this journey that we may finally step off the hedonic treadmill and discover the sustainable happiness that has eluded us for so long.