Home Ask Dr. Kathleen® What is the difference between happiness and pleasure?

What is the difference between happiness and pleasure?

by Dr. Kathleen Hall

Lyla, We confuse happiness with pleasure. We live our lives moving from satisfying one pleasure to satisfying another pleasure. You will not find happiness in a pleasure prison. Pleasure is short-lived and temporary. Happiness is sustainable for your life time. Pleasure is an event — a moment in time. You can’t find happiness through seeking only pleasure.

Pleasure can be seductive and addictive. Our pleasure-seeking obsession is destroying our mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Searching for pleasure in smoking, drinking, sex, video games, or watching television wastes our fragile short lives, not to mention exposing us to the host of diseases that are directly related to our pleasurable lifestyle. Pleasure is an experience; happiness is a chosen path of a lifetime.

Many of us chase one pleasurable experience after another only to have a greater letdown after each attempt. Pleasure is short-lived. Pleasure is killing us literally in our world: eating, technology, consumerism, materialism, seeking success. Seeking and experiencing pleasure in and of itself is a dead end. But if your goal is to experience a life of true happiness, pleasure becomes a watering hole on your journey. Having said this, pleasure is a gift, a prized thread that is woven into the tapestry of happiness. It is hard to find anyone who loves to eat more than I do. A good meal is definitely a source of great pleasure for me. But I am clear that this source of pleasure is “only” a meal, and food is woven into my life happiness. The meal does not define my happiness. The meal is a source of pleasure but not necessarily happiness.

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