At first glance there might not seem to be much of a difference between pleasure and happiness. Both things seem to be equally pleasing, and they are! When you do something that gives you pleasure, you automatically feel happy. Eating a lovely meal with good friends and loved ones, creating something beautiful, listening to good music, travelling to wonderful and interesting places. All those things and many, many more give us pleasure and happiness. So what is the difference?
This is a feeling which is both a blessing and a curse, because what gives us pleasure in the moment might make us really unhappy in the long run. This means that pleasure is a ‘short’ version of happiness. When, for example, you want to sleep in and therefore you start checking if maybe you have some aches and pains somewhere, maybe your throat is a little bit sore so you might just as well stay home from work. That is when you seek pleasure in the moment which will bring you less happiness when the paycheck comes!
Falling for the feeling of pleasure in the moment is also why people are unfaithful to their spouses, it just feels so good right now, but in the long run it is going to bring unhappiness to themselves as well as to those they love.
Another example is overeating. What tastes so good right now, that bar of chocolate or that creamy cake, might if one has a weight problem cause serious unhappiness when the scale shows where the treats have gone.
Of course pleasure doesn’t always have a bad aftertaste. There are many good things that give us pleasure and increase our happiness. But if there is something that feels a bit wrong when one is about to fall, then, maybe, that thing should be avoided.
Feeling happy is the ‘long’ version of pleasure. It might quite often be a little more subtle than the overwhelming feeling of pleasure, but instead it lasts a lot longer! Happiness comes from doing the right thing, overcoming obstacles or living a fulfilled life. The knowledge of how happy you will be when you have done what you are supposed to do, can make even the most boring task a bit more pleasurable and with that you actually get two for one!
Just think of how good you would feel if you resisted the urge to stay in bed and call in sick when you really aren’t and then your paycheck doesn’t show a deduction. That is what we should strive for because that is the real longlasting feeling of happiness, not just the short pleasure.
The same thing goes for skipping that scrumptious cake or a second helping of icecream. Or why not the feeling of accomplishment after having taken a long, brisk walk?
Both feelings are very nice, but I think we should always strive for happiness rather than pleasure in the moment. Especially if what gives us pleasure in the moment is something that we know in our hearts will give us or those we love unhappiness in the long run. If the pleasures are harmless and have no bad side effects they are of course fine. But if we get a nagging feeling that this might just come back to haunt us, then we should do our best to resist.
Do tell me your thoughts on this post or any of the others in the comments section!