The Delta Principle: The Key to Avoiding Hedonic Adaptations


This past weekend was the first camping trip of the season for my friends and I. 

It began with an early rise Saturday morning in Tom’s River, NJ before we made our way over to Wharton State Forest in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. The morning began as every good camping trip does: lacing the boots up tight, throwing the backpack over your shoulder, adjusting the straps, and hearing the first branch cracking underneath your boots. 

Over the next 13 miles, as the six of us marched along a good meandering conversation developed. The kind of conversation that can happen when you’re undistracted by your phone, television, or anything“urgent”. It’s just you, the person you’re talking to, and a whole lot of time and land to traverse. Even though it was flat our legs were gassed at the end of the day for we have not all been walking this far all winter. We started imagining the food we would be cooking over the fire, and how good it was going to taste. I dropped the witty line I heard from my cousin in Ireland: “Hunger is the best sauce”. 

This got us down the rabbit hole a little bit as another trail-mate mentioned that all of his best vacations have a certain aspect of suffering involved in them. In fact, the same guy scheduled a sprint triathlon into his bachelor party weekend. He then commented that it usually is not the luxury item that brings pleasure – it is the contrast between the suffering and the luxury that makes it that much sweeter. It is the Delta between the two that helps one to avoid the hedonic treadmill

Of course, after walking 13 miles and building a campfire – the potato with salt & oil did taste exceptionally well. Sleeping on the ground in 20 degree weather also made a bed and a shower on Sunday that much more luxurious. It is for all these reasons that I view camping as a Stoic Retreat

As spring rolls around I hope you will consider your own stoic retreat. Embrace the Delta Principle. It will bring all the things you do have back into perspective. 


  1. Love this one. My friends and I always used to marvel at how much better a bag of Doritos tasted at the top of a big mountain hike. This explains it! I think it’s one of the best parts of being an RD too because it really rolls back your status quo.


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