A lot of people think happiness and pleasure are the same things. For a long time, I was one of those people, in today’s post I want to explain why I think that they are two separate things that have contrasting effects on our mental health.
When two terms stem from a similar meaning it’s easy to associate them as the same thing. Happiness and pleasure are an example of that.
I used to live my life thinking that if I had one I naturally had the other, and a price for that is that I didn’t actually have either of them. With that, the state of my mental health began to deteriorate. Slowly at first, but it got quicker and quicker until I reached a breaking point.
Since I went through the upward journey back to a balanced life with my mental health I have begun to understand how the two are separate, and in this blog post, I have shared with you my outlook on them both.
Pleasure normally comes to me in the form of short bursts. Things like when I’m at West Ham and they score a goal to go ahead in a game. That instinct to jump out of my seat, hands in the air and cheering uncontrollably is a clear sign of pleasure. However, that can be wiped out in seconds if the opposition goes right up the other end and scores. Football, and in particular, supporting West Ham, is a roller coaster like that.
It also comes in the form of wanting something, especially if it’s something I’ve wanted for a while. I currently drive a Mercedes, before that, I was driving a Vauxhall Astra around. I loved that Astra but in the months leading up to the conclusion of that finance agreement I had my eyes set on the Mercedes.
Eventually, the time came and I was the proud owner of a Mercedes and it filled me with so much pleasure, that was two years ago, I have one year left on that finance agreement and already I find myself thinking of life after the Mercedes, and that is coming from someone who doesn’t plan his future too far in advance. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Mercedes and am grateful to have been able to be the proud driver of one, but becoming just that didn’t fill me with happiness, it was a short burst of pleasure.
For me, happiness comes from within. It’s a feeling, similar to how pleasure is, but it’s in a completely different ballpark.
As I mentioned earlier, watching West Ham go ahead in a game is a source of instant pleasure. The happiness comes from when I watch West Ham win a game. Any football fan will tell you that the games make or break their weekend and I’m no different, if West Ham win on a Saturday, that my happiness sorted for the weekend.
The beauty of happiness is that I’m normally so lost in it that I’m not aware that it’s even happening. Walking out of the brand new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium having watched West Ham become the first team to score against, keep a clean sheet against and beat Tottenham there. Being blown away at watching Taylor Swift in London during her reputation Stadium Tour, someone I had wanted to see for many years, as well as standing in awe at watching the kings of rock ‘n’ roll, The Rolling Stones, do their thing at their concert in London.
Those three, not to mention my travels around the world, are some recent examples of when I’ve been lost in happiness and it’s lasted for days, months and when I look back on them, years later, they still do the job.
Differentiating The Two
The only similarity that happiness and pleasure share is that they don’t last forever. Other than that I can’t think of any.
After the initial feeling of pleasure, it fades and turns into something else. With the car I mentioned earlier, I was handed the keys and it was amazing. The direction my life has taken since then, it’s a bit more of an inconvenience. Therefore that feeling of pleasure it once gave me feels like a million years ago.
Whereas the feeling of happiness lasts longer and although the feeling within you fades and you need to find it again through something else (Another West Ham win, seeing another one of your favourite artists live) you’re always reminded of how it made you feel. It never loses that.
There’s a reason people fill their homes with pictures from their holidays, good times at music festivals, family pets or magical days at weddings – they remind them of the happiness they felt that day.
Pleasure isn’t meant to have that same effect, which is why people don’t decorate their homes with pictures of their car, their one night stands or another expensive purchase that gives you that instant feeling.
In our lives, we need both to keep our mental health in a steady balance, we all do. Understanding the difference between the two has helped me appreciate, identify and work on this and hopefully the same can happen for you all.