You can have pleasure or you can have happiness, but you’ll never have both.

Think about Indians for example. Those ones who don’t have electricity in their huts and their clothes doesn’t even cover… You know what. When I am watching a documentary about them, they are smiling all the time.

How is it possible?

Do they have something that we don’t?

They are truly happy because they don’t know what they are missing. All those addictive substances that we can buy. Sweets, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, Coca-Cola, a new smartphone, a new car, a house bigger than your neighbour has and virtual relationships.

Believe me or not, all those things and substances are dragging us out of happiness. We are buying pleasure instead.

Happiness can’t be purchased.

Groups of neuroscientists were cutting rat brains for decades and testing human behaviour under various chemical substances to understand what drives our happiness and depression as well.

They’ve discovered what they searched for.

Unfortunately, this knowledge was not publicly revealed to us, yet big companies are using it against us for decades. They can sell us what they want because they have a blueprint for our brains.

This might sound a bit intrusive, but I recommend to hold on to your chair. You will not regret it.

Let’s face the problem

The industry made a great job of misleading us. They have mixed happiness and pleasure together so well, that we don’t know what is the difference.

Now, they are selling us pleasure. We think that by buying their product, we will become happy. However, this is not true.

I’ve scratched the surface in my previous article Your Brain Is A Drugstore.

It really is. We are not in full control of our emotions. Our emotions are controlled by our brain biochemicals, mainly Dopamine and Serotonin.

These biochemicals are used for communication between neurons in our brains.

The feeling of pleasure doesn’t last long.

Dopamine stimulates the feeling of pleasure. It excites neurons. When these neurons are excited too much and too often they tend to die. They have a protective mechanism called downregulation. They downregulate the number of neurons free for stimulation every time they get a hit.

You take your shot, you get your pleasure, neurons downregulate for the protection. Then you must take stronger shot to get the same pleasure, neurons downregulate again. This vicious cycle continues until you take a huge shot and you don’t feel anything. That’s tolerance and it’s the time when your neurons start to die.

Offseason in Plitvice National Park

Serotonin, on the other hand, stimulates the long-lasting feeling of happiness. It doesn’t destruct neurons, it inhibits them. It binds to them and slows them down.

However, there is one thing that downregulates serotonin. It’s dopamine.

The more pleasure you seek, the more unhappy you get.

Do you want to be truly happy?

Trash your smartphone, switch off the networks, take a carrot and go for a ride.

Of course, it’s not that simple, but if you understand fundamentals you can make a massive change quickly. This will motivate you to dig deeper.

According to Dr. Robert Lustig, there are 7 major differences between pleasure and happiness:

  • pleasure is short-lived, happiness is long-lived
  • pleasure is visceral, happiness is ethereal
  • pleasure is taking, happiness is giving
  • pleasure can be achieved with substances, happiness can not be achieved with substances
  • pleasure is experienced alone, happiness in social groups
  • extremes of pleasure lead to addiction, yet there is no such thing as too much of happiness
  • pleasure is dopamine, happiness is serotonin

Dopamine is stimulated by addictive substances. For example, buying a new iPhone will elevate dopamine rush in the same way as an extasy pill does.

It follows the same principles: it is short-lived, visceral, you “take it” or buy it for yourself, it is a substance, you experience it alone, it leads to addiction [you will buy a new one once it will be released] and it will give you the feeling of pleasure.

This device is at least not destroying your health [if I forget about its screen, preventing you from falling asleep, and it’s networks that microwave your brain 24/7].

Added sugar is our worst enemy.

I guess you know that eating too much sugar is not healthy for you. If you are like most of the others however, your sugar intake is still extremely high. Americans for example, have an average amount of sugar intake of 270 calories each day, what’s about 17  teaspoons a day. According to the American Heart Association, the maximal amount of sugar per day is:

  • 150 calories for men [about 9 teaspoons]
  • 100 calories for women [about 6 teaspoons]

That’s your maximum intake. Do you know how much sugar your body needs to function? Exactly 0.

Sugar is additive, not a necessity.

Your body doesn’t need added sugar. It requires carbohydrates which are broken down into sugar, to fuel your body.

We are unconscious addicts.

When you eat your favourite candy or muffin, you are knowingly consuming sugar to treat yourself. But do you know that even savoury foods like pesto, hummus, bread or processed meat contain added sugar? Sugar is hard to spot even when you search for it. There are 56 names for added sugar for that reason.

This makes it very easy for us to be under the constant influence of sugar.

Sugar vs Cocaine

MRI scanning has revealed shocking results when the brain is under influence of sugar. It lights up the same reward centres as cocaine. Isn’t it interesting?

Sugar drives dopamine, which excites your neurons to give you a short-term pleasure boost. Dopamine also downregulates serotonin, so you are also further from happiness and contentment.

Once a pleasure boost is gone, you will experience a sudden drop in your mood. It will not take a long time until you decide to get the next shot.

You get more sugar, you get your pleasure and your happiness is one step further again.

I think you get the point.

Take small steps towards your well being.

I am not telling you to stop buying stuff, drinking coffee, not eating sweets at all and going crazy on nutrition charts of every processed food you touch.

Think rationally.

Although extreme diets work for a small number of people, there is a good chance, it will not fit you.

Rather than to turn your life 180 degrees in a single day, follow my tips towards your well being today:

Move more. Physical activity naturally increases your level of serotonin and dampens dopamine. Therefore you will experience real happiness instead of false pleasure.

Cook at home. You will never put that much sugar in your own food as when grabbing a ready meal.

Cook for the others and share it. Once you cook more, you are saving time and money. Also when you share with others you are “giving” and you get involved in “interpersonal relationships” which leads to happiness again.

Sleep enough. Most of us are lacking enough restorative sleep. Even you. Can you say that you have 8 hours of real sleep? [Not talking about doing helicopters in your bed when trying to fall asleep].

Lack of sleep leads to being tired and it is closely connected to depression. Moreover, multiple studies have shown that when we are tired, we tend to reward ourselves more than normally. More coffee, more sweets, more cigarettes or beer right after work.

Sounds easy, isn’t it?

I don’t want to overwhelm you with information for the beginning, but if you are curious to know more, I recommend to read this book:

Dr. Robert Lustig – The Hacking of the American Mind