Can Upgrading Your Gear Make You Less Happy?

Cyber Monday — the more recent sibling of Black Friday — is upon us. It is therefore a good time to remind everyone that upgrades of gear are not always the right move, and they can be detrimental in more ways than one.

I imagine most photographers and videographers have fallen foul of the allure new gear has. I know — for certain — that I have invested in new camera equipment under the belief I was improving my arsenal, only to gradually realize it wasn’t a sensible use of my money. However, it also had either no long-term impact on my happiness (which in fairness, I didn’t expect it to) and sometimes a negative impact.

Hedonic adaptation is an observed psychological principle that humans tend to return to a resting state of happiness despite positive or negative events. It is as if we are tethered to a degree of happiness that is much harder to change, and impacts to it, both large and small, are unlikely to change that stable state long-term.

One of the more fundamental and well-known examples of nothing more than a happiness blip is purchasing items you want. Us photographers are prone to gear envy and will often look to justify the purchase of new equipment. It is occasionally the correct decision, but I find the short spike of euphoria when buying gear isn’t from these informed decisions, but rather purchases of the heart I may come to regret.


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