There is a finite list of things that can give you a feeling of happiness. I’m not referring to everlasting happiness, but a jolt of happiness. For example, sex is a pleasurable experience for most men, but the frequency at which you engage in sex can affect the happiness you get from it. The first time you have good sex establishes a baseline of 100% happiness from a sex orgasm. As you have more sexual episodes of increasing frequency, that number will fall below 100%, possibly to a level where it no longer gives you even half the contentment.
If you’ve ever gone on vacation with a girlfriend, you were at first excited about being able to have sex on demand. The first day of sex is quite good. The second day becomes a little tiring. On the third day, sex with your girlfriend becomes more of a trial, and your penis no longer wants or needs additional vaginal contact. In this case, your happiness has dipped below 50% and you would welcome a break from sex. If you are unable to take this break because your girlfriend has somehow enslaved you, sex can actually become torturous. It now becomes a source of unhappiness. This tells us that once you are able to obtain or experience that which makes you happy, either through good fortune or effort, you must deliberately restrict your exposure to it. Otherwise you will pass the point of diminishing return and a once happy act will make you unhappy or indifferent.
This analogy can apply to anything which makes you temporarily happy: eating fast food, checking Facebook, drinking with friends, masturbating, and so on. If you don’t space out how frequently you indulge in these things, your brain will no longer gain joy from them and becomes stingy with its release of dopamine. Thankfully there’s hope—you can trick your brain into thinking its novel by spacing the events out.
I experienced dopamine fatigue with coffee when I was having three cups a day. I used to get great pleasure from coffee, but I turned it into a habit that brought me no pleasure, not even an energy boost. I hit the reset button, went without coffee for a month, and then re-introduced it at a rate of once a week, twice a week, and then three times a week. After experimenting for a few months, I discovered that I will get at least an 80% happiness feeling from coffee if I drink it only on Sunday and Wednesday. On these two days, there is extra spring in my step when I head to the coffee shop for my special treat. The caffeine gives me a quick physiological boost that I greatly enjoy, but which I would not experience if I drank it every day.
Sex is another activity I examined. For me to be at least 80% happy with sex, I determined I should have it only once a week. I want to have it more than that (at least two or three times), but at those levels, I start to see sex as a predictable biological function. One of the reasons I have avoided relationships is not necessary because I don’t want a connection with one girl, but because the sex becomes boring. By only having it once a week, I greatly look forward to spending time with the girl I’m seeing. Like when walking into a cafe on coffee day, I approach our date with the highest energy level.
I’ve looked into spacing out other things, such as drinking, masturbating, and surfing the internet. I found that to remain happy about the things which are not scarce, I must exhibit self-control. Without self-control, unhappiness is sure to result from the things that are capable of giving me a pleasure boost. How many people do you know exhibit self-control when it comes to their moments of pleasure? Possible zero. Unable to space out their enjoyments, they simply stop enjoying them, and when you no longer become happy from the little things in life, you start to sacrifice your emotional well-being in the search for drama, problems, or entertainment, or you simply enter a depression. Therefore when supply of something pleasant is unlimited for you, a lack of self-control will destabilize your emotional well-being.
Having to consciously space pleasures wasn’t a problem for humans in the past. Ancient people didn’t have an unlimited supply of the things we take for granted today, so they could fill their bellies with the latest catch without having to regulate their intake, since it may be a while until they make another good catch again. We, on the other hand, have an easy life. A middle-class American man can purchase any food (full of delicious fat and sugar), have 24-hour internet access on their phone, and—if he’s a player—have booty call access for sex most nights of the week. It would sound like he’s living a dream life, but if he doesn’t restrict those things to the point where he’s left wanting, they will all cease bringing him pleasure. The only solution is for him to experiment with spacing and then use his self-control to say no to those things that he can easily have.