Achieving activities that give us pleasure and meaning (or represent a goal) can make us happier. In fact,sense and pleasure have become two essential ingredients of happiness.
But above all, we must answer an important question: what is happiness?Feeling happy depends largely on what we do and think.We can not be happy if we do not feel pleasure in what we do. And if we only think in a negative way.
"Happiness exists only where there is virtue and a serious effort because life is not a game."
What is happiness ?
When one is happy, life is beautiful. But what is happiness? It is important to define itbecause the way we look at it affects what we can do to improve it.Professor Paul Dolan believes he has the answer to this question.
Paul Dolan is internationally known as an expert on happiness,behavior and public policies. He is Professor of Behavioral Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science and has been a researcher in Professor Daniel Kahneman's team at Princeton University.
According to this author,happiness is the set of experiences of pleasure and meaning as time goes on.Life is beautiful when you feel happy. For the philosopher Jeremy Bentham, pleasure is the only thing that is good. Pain, on the contrary, is the only thing that is bad. However, some scholars prefer terms like "enjoyment" and "suffering".
In general terms, each of us can be classified according to the preponderance of different classes of sensations.Happy people have more positive feelings than negative ones.By using Bentham's language, in general, they feel pleasure and little pain.
So,the more frequent and intense your feelings of pleasure, the happier you will be.Nevertheless, there are other important sensations outside the categories of pleasure and pain: meaning and lack of meaning.
The principle of pleasure and meaning
We can understand pleasure and meaning as abbreviations for a wide range of positive and negative sensations.These sensations would be the following: fullness, meaning and utility on one side and, on the other, boredom and futility.
If we think of work or studies,we will realize that these activities sometimes give the feeling of having a lot of sense.Other times, the opposite happens. These sensations, good and bad, are as important as those of pleasure and pain.
Writing a book is a wonderful example of something that makes sense, that is a goal.Drinking a beer with our friends conveys a sense of pleasure. These are different sensations but both are sources of happiness for us.
To be truly happy, one must feel pleasure and meaning. There are different combinations.And you have to feel them at the same time. This is what Paul Dolan calls the principle of pleasure and meaning.
Negative emotions can be positive
This principle explains human motivation to seek pleasure and a sense / an end to avoid pain and lack of meaning.It also helps to explain why some generally negative emotions can sometimes be positive if they have a purpose.
Anger, for example, aims to curb egoism and stimulate cooperative behavior. Therefore, we do not always want to feel good feelings.Life can be cruel, just like people, and we will sometimes need to get angry.But we get mad too naturally, without a real purpose. For example, when we are stressed by small annoyances.
Lost happiness can not be recovered
Day after day, moment by moment, you may have feelings of pleasure, meaning, pain, and lack of meaning.You are happier when you feel more positive feelings and when you feel them longer.
Therefore, happiness is linked to the principle of pleasure and meaning as time goes by. Time is a rare resource, it must be kept in mind. Curiously, few researchers consider happiness according to the use of time.
In the long run,we must try to use the hours and minutes to feel a sense of pleasure and meaning as long as possible.Just as we can not recover the lost time, we can not recover happiness either.
Keep a job we do not like or maintain a complicated relationshipsimply prolongs the malaise. Future happiness will not fully compensate for this loss.Lost happiness is lost forever.
If you want to be happier, you will have to do activities that give you pleasure and meaning in life.But remember: these activities must be extended in time. Only in this way can you maximize your happiness.