It’s not very hard to find these things in college. For some, these are the reasons why they love college. But regardless of your moral convictions (whether or not you believe it is “good” or “bad” to indulge in these physical pleasures), today I want to address a question that I think is more important: does pleasure = happiness?
If you’re short on time, the simple answer is no, pleasure does not equal happiness.
While they may sound almost synonymous, there is a strong distinction to be made between these two experiences.
Pleasure is anything that stimulates our senses and makes us feel good in the moment. It is a temporary moment of ecstasy. We often turn to these things in times of hardship or when we need to blow off some steam. They can be great stress relievers (which is probably why they are so prevalent throughout most college campuses), but they are terrible problem solvers. No matter how good it feels in the moment, the “high” eventually fades, often leaving a bad taste after taste—a yearning for more. And the more you turn to this ecstasy to solve your problems and to “feel good,” the less ecstatic it becomes; yet, the more dependent you become on it. It’s a vicious paradox that many fall victim to, a downward spiral that ultimately leads to addiction—an unhealthy, obsessive dependency with diminishing returns.
Now I’m not trying to say that we should abstain from the pleasures of life or else become addicts. Personally, I think we should enjoy what the world (and college) has to offer. Physical stimuli provide the most “in-the-moment” pleasure we can experience in life, and I do believe that an appreciation for these pleasures in moderation can contribute to your overall happiness level. However, the temporary joy brought by any kind of physical pleasure should not be confused with true happiness and we should be aware of how indulging in them may be affecting our lives.
There’s a little saying that you may have heard which goes something like this: “I’m not an alcoholic, I’m in college.” The truth is, if you’re in college and want to have a social life, you will probably be drinking more than you ever have or ever will for the rest of your life. As long as you can control yourself and not let it become something that’s holding you back from doing other things, go ahead and enjoy a few drinks with your friends every now and then.
I like to think of physical pleasures, which feed our senses, as the dessert of a meal—a small addition to the main course. True happiness, on the other hand, which feeds our entire being, is the core of the meal. Another way to think of it is as internal vs external experiences. Pleasure is an external experience dependent on a physical stimulation, whereas happiness is an internal experience independent of any physical restrictions.
So take your pick, do you want the dessert or the main course? I think we can have a little bit of both.
Image Credit: freeimages – patator