I attended a lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig last week. He was discussing the differences between pleasure and happiness.

The Hacking of the American Mind

Dr Lustig is a professor of pediatrics in the division of Endocrinology at UCSF. You may have heard of him as he speaks/lectures a lot about sugar. The lecture was based on his recently published book called The Hacking of the American Mind where he dives into the differences between pleasure and happiness. I haven’t read the book yet so can’t comment on it, but I was struck by his comparison of pleasure and happiness.

Take a look at this infographic showing how he compares the two:

Infographic showing the differences between pleasure versus happiness from CALMERme.com

Pleasure versus happiness

Do you agree? Is that how you see pleasure and happiness?

How do you think this applies to you? Do you seek pleasure over happiness in your daily life? Are big business and the government to blame?  

Think about your relationship to food. All too frequently we want that immediate pleasure from something to eat. Maybe if we didn’t eat it, our health would be better, or we would feel better about ourselves and ultimately happier? But do we indulge? What about other behaviors, like constant cell phone use instead of an afternoon talking face to face with friend? Are these quick rewards leading to too much dopamine and ultimately a type of addiction?

The Four C’s

The difference, Lustig concludes, between pleasure and happiness boils down to pleasure (dopamine) being about searching for reward while happiness (serotonin) is more about contentment. He sees that experiences are what lead to happiness. He describes strategies for happiness as the 4 C’s of contentment:

  • Connection – religion, social support, conversation
  • Contribution – self-worth, altruism, volunteerism, philanthropy
  • Coping – sleep, mindfulness, exercise
  • Cooking – for yourself, friends and family

Does any of this resonate with you? Can you make any easy changes away from short-term pleasure towards long-term happiness

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