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Happiness Versus Pleasure

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For most of my life, I thought pleasure was the same as happiness. Only after I graduated university did I learn the difference. I sure wish I had known earlier! The world's happiest man, Matthieu Richard, explains the difference between pleasure and happiness in his book Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill.

Pleasure is temporary, fleeting, and comes from outside stimulation. Examples include eating delicious food, watching a riveting movie or show, traveling to a new place, getting social media likes, etc.

Happiness is a long-lasting feeling of contentment and comfort that comes from within yourself, rooted in the way you think and see the world. When we have true happiness, we wouldn't seek pleasure to distract ourselves from discomfort. Examples of happiness include

  1. Having a mindset of gratitude

  2. Being content with all that one already has

  3. Helping others without expecting anything in return

  4. Having a learner attitude towards everything that happens

In other words, we can access happiness for free at any time. How awesome is that?

Before I learned what true happiness is and how to get it, I often sought out pleasure in the form of delicious food, traveling, computer games, etc. All of these things only provided a temporary distraction from stress and discomfort. After I switched the way I think and view the world, I became a lot more happy and peaceful. I still enjoy pleasures, but I don't seek them to distract myself from stress anymore.

1: Having a mindset of gratitude

Before, I used to just focus on what I want, and when I didn't get it, I got stressed or upset. Now, I focus more on repaying gratitude, such as to parents, teachers, employers, country, and Mother Nature. For example, I take care of my parents' health to repay their gratitude. I do my job well to repay gratitude to my employer. I happily pay my taxes to repay gratitude to the government. I do a lot of environmentally-friendly things to repay gratitude to Mother Nature. Living from a mindset of gratitude is a happy place to be.

2: Being content with what I already have

Like most people in first-world countries, I'm really fortunate to not really lack anything material wise. I've already written about reducing desires and making best use of what we already have elsewhere, so I won't go into further detail here.

3: Helping others without expecting anything in return

I used to help others while expecting something in return. For example, I'll want them to behave a certain way, or expect them to return a favor in the future. This kind of giving is not pure. Now, I just help others because I want the best for them, and I don't care how they respond or if they can help me back. This pure intention brings a lot of happiness and peace.

4: Having a learner attitude towards everything

We can't avoid failure and pain in life, but if we can learn something from these experiences, then we turn that pain into learning. Learning gives us the feeling of progress and improvement, which feels good.


Don't confuse pleasure and happiness. Most people seek out fleeting pleasures from the outside when what they really want and need is long-lasting happiness, which comes from the inside. Hopefully, you've found these four examples useful for your own life. If you want to read more on this topic, check out this article: Rewire Your Mind For Happiness.


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