Creating Lasting Happiness

High School Social Emotional Learning Activity

Teen SEL activity creating lasting happiness - hedonic treadmill worksheet

Creating Lasting Happiness- Hedonic Treadmill Activity


Learn how levels of happiness increase and decrease over time, and life is full of normal ups and downs. Learn strategies for increasing happiness that lasts.

Grade Level

High School

Health / Social Emotional Topics

  • Health strategies for managing emotions, happiness, sadness
  • Self-awareness


Quotes and Teaching Notes

Choose one of these quotes on happiness and the full teaching notes for each quote.



1. Choose one of the quotes above and review the teaching notes for the quote.

2. Discuss with students how sadness is part of life and having ups and downs is normal. One of the quotes can help students remember that when things feel more difficult or sad, there are strategies to help yourself feel better.

3. Watch this Ted Ed Video on the Hedonic Treadmill, a psychological theory that people tend to have steady states of happiness. We have moments of ups and moments of downs, but we tend to level off in a mid-range steady state.

Students can document answers to the following key points about the Hedonic Treadmill:

  • What is the Hedonic Treadmill?: A theory in psychology that most people have a base level of happiness that stays constant. While new things we are happy about (new material object, job, relationship) momentarily cause lifts in happiness, people typically revert back to their base level quickly.
  • Are there advantages to the Hedonic Treadmill?: Because we return to a steady state quickly, we are protected from the emotional impact of negative events. Even though things may feel bad for a little while, we know they will get better.
  • How does acquiring money or "things" impact happiness?: We adapt to having new “things” very quickly, and they just increase our base level of expectation. Some things we feel we “have to have” may cause temporary lift in happiness, but it’s not lasting.
  • What are some ways to create a more lasting happiness?: We retain happiness longer from new experiences or from learning a new skill. We retain more happiness when sharing our good fortune with others.
4. Complete the worksheet:

Download the PDF Happiness- Hedonic Treadmill Worksheet

Note: See also these resources on understanding the difference between sadness and depression and strategies for coping with sadness.