3 ultimate problems with pleasure

Written by Elise Matthews

I’ve been reading a fascinating book called the Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt in which he uses ancient wisdom to get down to the fundamentals of what really makes us happy.  In the book he brings up a very clear distinction between pleasure and gratification that was way to insightful for me to keep to myself.  I hope you find this information a useful as I do

He defines pleasures a having clear sensory and strong emotional components that result in a feeling of happy satisfaction or enjoyment.  Pleasures can involve things like food, back rubs, sex, and a cool breeze on a warm day. 

Often times pleasure leads to over-indulgence which more often than not leads to negative effects.  For example, a bowl of ice cream will result in pleasure, however a gallon of ice cram will probably result in a few unpleasant trips to the bathroom or at the minimum a very unpleasant stomach ache. 

We could take a few lessons from the French.  They have mastered the art of pleasure without over-indulgence:  Have you ever wondered why the French can eat delicious fatty foods yet, remain much thinner and happier than us? Their approach to pleasure is vastly difference than ours. 

  • The French are notorious for the amount of pleasure they get from food but they eat much slower, and pay a lot more attention to the food they eat.  This is lesson number one in our nutrition coaching program because it is such an important habit to learn.
  • Americans, in contrast shovel enormous servings of high fat and high carbohydrate food into their mouths while doing other things.  
  • The French vary their pleasure by serving many small courses.
  • America is the land of the “Super Size” and the “Big Gulp”.  We are seduced by large portions, over indulgence is epidemic.

There are three ultimate problems with pleasure

  1. There there is no proven lasting benefit.  In fact, pleasure that leads to over indulgence can have a reverse effect. 
  2. Pleasure feels good in the moment but sensual memories fade quickly, and we are no wiser or stronger as a result.
  3. If we become dependent on the temporary feeling of happiness that results from pleasure, it beckons us back for more pulling us away from activities that might be better for us in the long run. 

So what does the Happiness Hypothesis recommend that we do?  Seek gratification instead.  More on what exactly gratification is and how to obtain it next week.



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