COMMENTARY: Happiness Is More Than Fun and Pleasure

Ask young people why they get high on drugs or alcohol or seek sex without intimacy or commitment and they’re likely to tell you it’s fun and they just want to be happy.

It’s tempting to envy the life of fun-loving “party animals,” “playboys,” and “good-time girls” until one thinks about how they feel about themselves and their lives when they’re alone without the hyped-up stimulation they seem to thrive on.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to realize that if happiness is the destination, these folks are on the wrong road. The problem is, the intense sensation of fun or feelings of pleasure experienced by a substance-induced buzz or an exciting sexual encounter are quickly replaced with a consuming sense of emptiness that drives a need to start all over to fill the vessel again.

Each time drinkers, drug users, or sex addicts discover that getting what they wanted isn’t making them happy, they fall into the despondency conveyed in the famous Peggy Lee song: “Is That All There Is?”

People who make pleasure-seeking the focus of their lives are like drug addicts who need continually stronger and more dangerous doses to get high.

Happiness is different than fun and pleasure. It’s a less intense, but more durable, feeling of well-being. It’s not a continuous state. A good life is usually seasoned with moments of joy and despair, play and work, success and failure. Happiness is a kind of emotional resting place of quiet satisfaction with one’s life.

The art of living a happy life is not having more of what you want but getting better at enjoying what you have.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

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