Happiness vs. Pleasure: There’s a Huge Difference

There’s a huge difference between happiness and pleasure, yet there’s still a correlation between them.

We believe that by seeking pleasure and avoiding pain we will feel happy. And to an extent, that holds. Pleasure is a brief feeling that comes from something external while authentic happiness is an internal state of mind.

Pleasurable experiences can make us feel happy, but once the experience is over, the feeling is gone. Happiness is a feeling that is self-sustaining.

If we’ve got a positive mental attitude, then even when surrounded by hostility, we won’t lack inner peace. 

HH The 14th Dalai Lama

It’s much easier to be happy when our pleasurable experiences are frequent, that’s obvious. To find happiness, that persists even when pleasure doesn’t, we’ve to understand what it is.

The ancient Greeks had two different words for happiness — hedonia and eudaimonia. To explain these terms in just a few words, hedonia is what we take from the world to be happy. We call it a pleasure. Eudaimonia is what we give to the world to give us happiness. We call it happiness. This is the self-sustaining, internal, state of mind.

With hedonia, you’re the main focus. It’s externally derived, short-lived, and subject to circumstances. With eudaimonia, the focus is on others. It’s internally derived, continual, and notwithstanding.

In the pursuit of happiness, the well-being of others is the surer way forward. This is the basis of the Dalai Lama’s frequent encouragement for us to be wisely selfish.

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