Sex, drugs and rock n roll. New shoes and fast cars. A cocktail by the pool, anyone? Some of life’s acclaimed pleasures. And, hey why not? A bit of pleasure never hurt anyone. Did it?
Life’s little pleasures are just that, small moments in time that feel great. We slide into some sort of excitable oblivion. Then the sprinkle of gold dust stops and the high also stops. Bummer. Logical solution: get more pleasure! Bigger parties, longer holidays, champagne rivers, a veritable harem of gorgeous girls! If a bit was good, then lots must be so much more way excellently better!
Of course, pausing and reflecting for one second, it becomes obvious that this is the road to adddiction, with all of the misery that can bring. It is cruelly ironic that the pursuit of pleasure can cause family breakdown, terrible health, or at the very least a feeling of lonely empitness when standing in the midst of a toy-filled mansion. Having manically advertised these pleasures, our society then sells us the antidotes: rehab, diets, plastic surgery, credit-reduction programs.
My favourite Buddhist nun explained the pleasure principle to me very simply. Do I like chocolate cake? Yes please! Then how would I like to eat the whole cake? Would I then feel pleasure or something else entirely? How about a lovely long hot shower. For five hours? I think you know what I mean. Australians have more money and possessions than ever before in history. And yet the depression rates have grown astronomically.
Evidently, more is not what we need. The author of Authentic Happiness, Dr Martin Seligman, notes that wealth, income and even physical attractiveness have been shown to have almost no correlation with lasting happiness. Strange isn’t it when we are constantly bombarded by ads that imply that they do. For this reason we think that have-it-all celebrities must be deleriously happy at all times, and yet the addiction and suicide rates alone among this population tell us otherwise.
Compared to pleasure-induced highs, the basics of lasting happiness are much more mundane. For that reason they are commonly overlooked. Here are a couple to consider:
1. Gratitude. Yep, in fact you do not need anymore stuff! Simply list 5 things each day that you are grateful for. High spectacularness factor not required. A lovely starry night or a phone call from a treasured friend will do just fine.
2. Savour any pleasures that you do stumble across. Again this does not involve getting anything new. Just drinking in the moments worth something to you in the lovely slices of your life.
3. Expect the good, the bad, and the ugly in life. Ain’t no 9/10 happiness possible all day everyday. Even if you are a gorgeous wildly rich celebrity you will be rejected by people for roles and love, miss out on the last ‘it’ handbag, and gain the odd kilo. Life is a rollercoaster. Accept it and move on.
4. Help others, even in the smallest way, without telling anyone about it. Yep, it’s been shown to work!
5. Even if they are difficult to do, engage in activities that are meaningful to you and absorbing. Get the stoke afterwards! Surfing, working, writing, running, cooking, or even tiling could all fit the agenda.
So a little pleasure might enhance our lives a little, and has the potential to do us a lot of evil. Try out some of the principles for lasting happiness and see how they work for you. I would love to hear the results!