I recently watched a travel program called “Destination Happiness”, where the host visited various luxury holiday resorts to check them out. Each resort ‘spared no expense’, seeking to give their visitors an experience to be remembered – as long as they can afford the big price tag. Such holidays give us a taste of the pleasures and lifestyle of the rich and famous – if only for a week – but, are they really about happiness? In his book “The Hacking of the American Mind.”, Dr Robert Lustig (psychiatrist), argues that we have become confused about the difference between pleasure and happiness, such that we find ourselves addicted to pleasure when we thought we were pursuing happiness as the destination. He puts much of the blame for this confusion on corporations, who deliberately promote ‘pleasure’ as ‘happiness’ to make a profit. The sad irony is that many of the rich and famous demonstrate one of his main conclusions, “The more we seek pleasure, the less happy we will become.” So, how are pleasure and happiness different? Pleasure is short-lived, visceral, focused on taking, can be achieved with substances, can be experienced alone, leads to addiction when taken to extremes, and stimulates dopamine in our brains. The result is an excitement that requires more and more stimulation to achieve the same effect. Dissatisfaction, discontent, and depression are often by-products of pleasure seeking – especially when we get addicted.
Happiness is long-lived, ethereal, focused on giving, cannot be achieved with substances, is experienced in social groups, cannot lead to addiction, and stimulates serotonin in our brains. The result is a feeling of contentment and peace, that is good for our well-being as human beings.
3000 years ago, a very rich king named Solomon decided to indulge his every desire, as he explored the meaning and purpose of life. He had everything he wanted in abundance – exotic foods, beautiful clothes, luxurious homes, gorgeous women, unlimited opportunities to pursue creative and artistic endeavours, and an abundance of servants to meet his every want – but the excitement never lasted. His favourite expressions became ‘all is vanity’ and ‘there’s nothing new under the sun.” King Solomon discovered that futility and despair are the fruits of a self- indulgent lifestyle – not happiness. After years of extravagance, he concluded, “fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.”
The God who created and sustains our life, is also the One who created pleasure and happiness. Pleasure is God’s gift, in its proper context, but pursuing it will not bring the true happiness and contentment we seek. That can ONLY be found in a relationship with Him. Jesus said, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all the things you need will be added to you.” Seek Him today. Mark Troddsee my blog www.writersforjesus.com