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HAPPINESS vs. PLEASURE

The Dalai Lama believes that the purpose of our lives is to seek happiness.  He believes we can achieve happiness through training of the mind, and the mind is the ‘psyche’ or ‘spirit’ including intellect, feeling, heart and mind.  On the other hand, Sigmund Freud’s theory is that our underlying motive in life is to seek pleasure.

In her book, “The How of Happiness,” psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky describes a “happiness set point,” and suggests that 50% of happiness is genetically determined, 10% is due to life circumstances, and 40% is based on your personal outlook.  So, if you have made poor choices in your life that have resulted in unhappiness, this is good news.  A huge percent of our happiness is within our control.

Scientists have also pinpointed the part of the brain that, when stimulated with electrodes, produces pleasurable feelings.  They have identified four major chemicals in the brain that influence pleasure or temporary happiness – Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins.  Unfortunately, the misuse of synthetic forms of these drugs can also result in negative, harmful, and destructive feelings.  These chemicals are referred to as DOSE:

  • Dopamine is what we normally think of as the happiness drug. However, that’s a big misconception. Dopamine is actually involved more with anticipation than the actual “happiness” feeling.
  • Oxytocin is the neurochemical that has allowed us to become social creatures. It makes us feel empathy which helps us feel close and bonded to others when it’s released.
  •  Whether you’re in a good mood or a bad mood you have serotonin to blame. It’s a regulator. About, 80 percent of serotonin exists in the gut, and is governed by your state of hunger.
  • Endorphins are responsible for masking pain or discomfort, which explains their association with the “fight or flight” response. When it comes to designing happiness, endorphins help you “power through.”  Many times athletes report their “endorphins kicking in” to help them push farther and harder.  It provides that final burst of energy when they see the goal is in reach.

Although pleasure is an indicator of a temporary happiness, usually related to a physical experience, it doesn’t always result in a long-term happy environment. Once the chemical stimulation is removed, the reality of the situation returns.   These same pleasurable feelings can also result in unhappiness, or are actually pursued through synthetic drugs as a result of unhappiness.

Next post: Six Ridiculously Simply Ways to Increase Your Happy Chemicals

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