The Difference Between Happiness and Pleasure and Why it Means EVERYTHING
I have been studying happiness a lot lately and I came across some information about 6 months ago that forever changed my outlook on pleasure and happiness. I had always assumed they were basically the same thing. They are not. Here is what I learned from my studies and especially the work of Dr. Robert Lustig.
What’s the difference between happiness and pleasure?
Pleasure is short lived; happiness is long lived
Pleasure is taking; happiness is giving
Pleasure is experienced alone; happiness is usually in a social group
Pleasure can be achieved w/ substances; happiness cannot be achieved with substances
Every single extreme of any pleasure leads to addiction, there’s no such thing as being addicted to too much happiness
Pleasure is dopamine; happiness is serotonin
Q. So why does this matter? Why do we even care?
To understand why this is so important we must first understand the difference between “Dopamine” and “Serotonin”
Dopamine- Is a neurotransmitter, a chemical responsible for sending messages between the brain and different nerve cells of the body. Dopamine has been identified as the body's reward activator, controlling the pleasure center of our brain while encouraging us to engage in thrill-seeking activities.
Serotonin- is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical, because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness
A. Dopamine- Have you ever heard of someone needing more and more of a certain drug or addiction to get the same hit as before? That is because dopamine acts as an excitatory neurotransmitter and it down regulates it’s own receptors. If you excite the next neuron too often it will die. So it down regulates to protect itself and therefore you need more and more of it for the same high until you take too big of a hit and you eventually get nothing. That’s called tolerance. When the neurons start to die, that’s addiction.
B. Serotonin- Here is the good news.. It does not down regulate it’s own receptors, so you can’t overdose on too much happiness! In fact there is only one thing that down regulates serotonin and that is dopamine.
*** So the more pleasure you seek, the more unhappier you get! The dopamine blocks your ability to get the serotonin.
When you start to understand the difference between these 2 things you can start to see how Hollywood, Vegas, Wall Street, and even Silicon Valley have all purposely confused pleasure and happiness. They do this so that they can sell us their junk. This essentially is what makes us unhappy.
Q. How do we get this turned around?
Here are a few of the key things that you can do in order to turn your life around and start to live seeking happiness instead of pleasure…
Connect with people- your neurons respond to the human face. Empathy is then transmitted in this waves
Contribute beyond yourself - we must look at working towards something bigger than ourselves
Cope- Self care- sleep, diet, exercise
Cook- Start making your own meals. This way you know what you are taking in and you will find pleasure in the process of healthy eating.
There are many more ways we can get this all turned around but above all else just look at your own life and ask yourself if this is something that is giving you temporary pleasure or is it truly bringing you happiness.