Pleasure or happiness

Does the pursuit of pleasure sometimes prevent us from experiencing happiness? Yes.

Sharman Apt Russell, in her book Hunger: An Unnatural History, notes that Alan Goldhamer “makes a nice distintion between pleasure, a response of the nervous system to a specific stimulus, and happiness, an extended mood that occurs when we perceive the balance of our experiences to be positive. Happiness is created by the ongoing act of making progress toward our goals.” (p.64)

Russell made the point in relation to how we eat. “In terms of diet, modern humans are now being misdirected, overwhelmed, and seduced by ‘pleasure traps’ that appeal to our hard-wired excitement in finding a high-energy, high caloric food source.”

In other words, we eat chocolate cake for the jolt of pleasure that it induces. But too much cake will have negative effects on our physical wellbeing that can hinder the pursuit of our life goals and thus happiness.

So, beware of pleasures. Too many pleasures of the wrong kind may equal less happiness of the right kind.

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