HappYness & Pleasure
You've visited all the places you've wanted to visit, eaten all the foods you've wanted to, have taken part in all the activities you've ever wanted to, have all the possessions you've yearned for, and ticked off all the items on your "bucket list!"
And then, are you truly happy? Or have you accumulated a lot of pleasure and pleasurable experiences over time? Is that what makes one happy? Or is there more to "happYness" than all this?
It seems appropriate to state that almost every being is interested in being "Happy!" That every beings' actions are aimed at giving them the greatest potential probability of being happy. This is what is referred to as the "positive intention" that underlies every action that is performed by any being, and especially by human beings. And in many cultures the term "pursuit of happiness" has been made the prime motive and aspiration for every human.
There is a very big difference between pleasure and happYness! Really? I am sure that this statement might sound outlandish and not very correct at a first glance. What's the difference between pleasure and HappYness? Have you wondered about it? A question to you: Do you think they're the same and often use the terms interchangeably? Pleasure is a subset of happYness. HappYness is the superset. For pleasure, the neural circuits are primarily located in the "nucleus acumbens" and dopamine is the neurotransmitter involved. Dopamine is excitatory. An addiction is primarily caused by these excitatory biochemicals neurotransmitters. Any addict gets addicted to the pleasure of the substance or the activity. Pleasure is about the 5 senses through which we experience our respective worlds and in that sense, is extremely limited - and hence are labelled "sensual." A person gets pleasure from what they see, hear, smell, taste or touch. The 6th sense might be the "feel" which relates to the emotions that one experiences.
Because it is related to the 5 base senses, and given the nature of the neurotransmitter, It Is possible to get addicted to pleasure and hence even overdose on it. Take a moment to evaluate any and all substance addiction - they are all related to one or more of the 5 senses. Behavioural addictions are probably also related to the 6th sense, the emotion.
OK! The WHAT is HappYness?
"HappYness" is personal and hence cannot be defined. Pleasure is transient and passes quickly. HappYness is a state of mind that has the potential to be present for a longer period of time.
Aristotle opined that happiness can usefully thought of as consisting of two fundamental aspects: hedonia (pleasure) and eudaimonia (a life well-lived). In contemporary psychology these aspects are usually referred to as pleasure and meaning.
The Dalai Lama, along with Howard Cutler in “The Art of Happiness” states, “Happiness is not a fixed characteristic, a biological set point that will never change. Instead, the brain is plastic, and our quota of happiness can be enhanced through mental training.”
The thought now in your mind might very well be, “Alright, that is confusing. And so, what is happYness?” The simple answer that I offer for your consideration is that happYness is unique to you, and hence needs a personal definition that you are comfortable with. This also underscores that each and every individual is unique and that one size does not need to, and truly does not fit all. It is a unique personal state that you experience. And it is about choosing to stay in that state, and being aware to stay so.
The term “happYness” could be taken to mean “the state of resourceful, mindful awareness, that enables one to be equanimous, and function at their best in any circumstance” and not dependant on the achievement of any particular end result. If that is too technical, or too much to wrap your head around, it could simply be the experience of being in control of one’s own life; of a life with well-being, joy, contentment, fulfilment, and equanimity, combined with the thought that one’s life is purposeful, meaningful, worthwhile, or just “good.” Probably the statement “Life is good” encapsulates all of happiness. The key question is whether life IS REALLY good!
It is reasonable to surmise that pleasure not the same as happYness. Pleasure could be a facet or contributor to happYness, and does not make up all of happYness and only a part. The key difference between pleasure and happYness is that it isn't possible to get addicted to HappYness and can never overdose on it. You can have happYness without pleasure.You cannot have pleasure without happYness! However, going only after pleasure will have a detrimental effect in the long term and make true happYness almost impossible to attain. True happYness comes from being purposeful and altruistic. Altruism is a huge contributor to being purposeful.
A person once asked me, "How can you help me find my purpose in life?" I responded, "Well, none other than you can help you find your purpose in life. And even that is llikely to be changing with time and experiences. However, I can help you be 'purposeful' by choice, and in every moment of your life. So, if you are purposeful every moment of your life, chances are that you will live a life of purpose!"
In summary, pleasure is most often linked only to oneself. HappYness has a larger connotation and has been seen to be linked with the wellness of other beings as well. Being altruistic, kind and contributing to the welfare of others has a greater chance of making a person truly happy than anything else.