The Difference Between Pleasure And Happiness


Most people would be happy to over-indulge in a delicious donut - or three! What they'll realize about 10 minutes afterwards, when their stomach settles in - is that happiness isn't found in a local donut shop. Pleasurable experiences like eating desert, or overspending on a new gadget that you can't afford might feel good at the time, but that feeling is generally short lived. Most of us spend so much of our time and energy seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, hoping that this will lead to the elusive status of being "happy". It's easy to confuse happiness with pleasure, so it's important for us to understand the difference. 

Now, there's nothing wrong with seeking a little pleasure every now and then. Be careful though, when you use it as a replacement for happiness you will be on an endless quest for true fulfillment. Pleasure is only a temporary emotion that comes from an outside stimulus. Pleasure engages the positive side of our senses and initiates a rush of endorphines, which can feel very good in the moment. By it's nature though, pleasure is short lived because it's dependent on external events that are fleeting. In order to maintain the feeling of pleasure we have to continue to engage in seeking more experiences that produce it. This can lead us to become addicted to the activities that are the source of the pleasure and can have an adverse effect on our mental health over an extended amount of time. 

Instead, what most people are looking for is true happiness, the kind that's much more intrinsic. Happiness is an inner quality, and a state of mind. Happiness is achieved when your mind is at peace with your body. Everyone has their own definition of what happiness looks like in their lives, here are a few opinions from people you may know. 

"True happiness is…to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future." 

– Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” 

– Dalai Lama

“The secret of happiness is not in doing what one likes, but in liking what one does.”

–James M. Barrie

"Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think."


"Pleasure may come from illusion, but happiness can come only of reality."

-Nicolas Chamfort

If you find yourself pursuing pleasure to try to make you happy, try thinking about some things you can change in your life that will lead you towards happiness. If you need some guidance or help with this, follow the link below! One of our therapists would be happy to help you.