The Difference Between Pleasure and Long-Term Happiness

What leads to long-term happiness? How do we cultivate it in our lives? There are schools of thought within psychology that use scientific tools to explore and nurture “positive human functioning” and happiness. These studies break down happiness into different manifestations, or types of experiences.


There are different kinds of happiness. There is the kind of happiness that is best reflected in the idea of pleasure and savoring those elements that give us enjoyment in daily life. No one would deny that a pleasurable experience makes us happy, but is it the lasting, deep, happiness that can truly improve our lives? Does it provide a solid foundation for well-being and consistent joy?

Pleasure begins with a great feeling, but quickly dissipates. Pleasure comes and goes all too easily. (Yes, eating that cake was fantastic, but how do you feel an hour later?) The drawback to this version of happiness is that when the source of the pleasure fades, so do the positive emotions go. This kind of happiness keeps us in a cycle of emotional ups and downs.

Lost In Love

A second kind of happiness is when you experience the feeling of getting lost in an experience, where we feel “one” with something, absorbed in the flow. It could be the sensation we have when working on a project we love, listening to a great piece of music, spending time with people we care about. This kind of happiness can be wonderful and fulfilling, and is easy to develop in our lives. Think about your greatest strengths. Is it your work, something you enjoy playing, your parenting, or your relationship? If you redefine these elements, you’ll recognize them and make them even more important to you. Savor your strengths. Become connected to the joy inherent in what is valuable to you. Greater happiness will result in rethinking the things and experiences that we cherish.

When It’s Bigger Than You

The most long-lasting kind of happiness is one that is connected to the idea of a meaningful life. Looking again at your greatest strengths, the most solid happiness comes when you find something outside of yourself to be of service to, in the effort to make a difference in the world. When you apply yourself to something bigger, externally, you are connected to others.

When you have a meaningful life, you have a deeper sense of happiness. You can enjoy pleasure, without depending on it. Health, longevity and greater productivity arise from embracing a meaningful life. @DerekONeill101 (Click to Tweet!)

Having bigger meaning in your life supports the kind of happiness we need on a larger scale. Being part of a community is a much better source of happiness than just fending for yourself all the time. Studies show that when people forget that they are part of the “we,” and just think of “me” all the time, the “me” in them suffers. We are all in this together, and a world where people are connected is a happier place for all. Thinking we must have more and more, all to ourselves, breeds greed and unhappiness throughout our society.

There is a pocket book series I have created called GET A GRIP that deals with topics such as happiness, addiction, stress, mindfulness, and relationships. I encourage you to explore the ones that resonate with you, so you can gain deeper insights and strategies that can help you reconnect with your authentic self and find greater happiness in your life.


Derek O’Neill, fondly referred to as the Celtic Sage, inspires and uplifts people from all walks of life, offering guidance to influential world leaders, businesses, celebrities, athletes and everyday people alike. Distilled from his life work in psychotherapy, a martial arts career and study with wise yogis and Indian and Tibetan masters, Derek translates ancient wisdom into modern day teachings to address the biggest challenges facing humanity today. For additional insights listen to his free radio archives , order his new book ‘CONSCIOUSNESS – It’s All OverYou’ or join him in Los Angeles or New York in March for his Paths of Consciousness Tour.



Image courtesy of Aleksei Bakulin.