Happiness, Pleasure and Bliss

In honor of Happiness Happens Month, I wanted to write about what makes people happy. I am an avid Choice Theory enthusiast and have been studying the work of William Glasser my entire adult life. Glasser made the distinction between pleasure and happiness by saying pleasure feels good, but in order to experience happiness, you need other people. I’d like to unpack that further and add a new word, Bliss.

Have you noticed there aren’t many happy people in the world? Look around. We have people addicted to drugs and alcohol, people hating their jobs and others sleepwalking through life. It is rare to find individuals you can truly call happy—individuals who enjoy each day as it comes and make the most of it.

When people are truly happy, they may be afraid to admit it because it seems they are bragging about their life. It’s as if being happy somehow diminishes those who aren’t. When someone is happy, it seems rather than being happy for that person, others prefer to drag that person down. Happiness happens: you can be a part of it, or you can try to destroy it.

Let’s look at the three words pleasure, happiness and bliss. Pleasure is what feels good. Drugs and alcohol feel good and pleasurable to some. Casual sex can feel good, as can eating junk food, binge-watching Netflix or engaging in retail therapy. Pleasure tends to alter your mood by distracting you from what’s important in your life. Dictionary.com says it’s “enjoyment or satisfaction derived from what is to one’s liking; gratification; delight or worldly or frivolous enjoyment.”

Dr. Glasser defined happiness as the joy experienced in healthy, accepting, encouraging relationships with the important people in your life. We know humans are wired for connection for the survival of our species, but we also need it to experience true happiness, as defined by Dr. Glasser. Dictionary.com defines happiness as “good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy” as if they are all synonymous. In Choice Theory psychology, we like to make a distinction between the pleasure of things and the happiness of quality relationships.

No matter how much quality relationships are important to humans, there will be times when we are alone, as well as times when we can’t seem to derive happiness from our connection with others. During those times, it’s critical we remember that we can experience bliss completely by ourselves. Dictionary.com defines bliss as “supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment.” When we learn to practice gratitude and appreciation for everything around us, we can conjure that amazing sense of bliss in any moment of our life.

Bliss can be experienced gazing at a sunset, or for my early risers, a sunrise. It can be blissful to listen to the ocean, watch a child playing in a park, or do the work you know you were created to do. Singing and dancing by myself can bliss me out. Bliss can also come during time spent connecting with your Higher Power. Bliss is available to you at any moment, with or without others. It’s something no one can take away from you. It basically becomes the ability to fall in love with whatever is happening in the moment, believing it was designed just for you based on what you need.

I love the notion of a Happiness Happens month. It was designed to help people celebrate those things that make them happy. I love that! In addition, start celebrating those moments when you were blissful just because you decided to see the world with childlike wonder, not because of anything in particular.

Happiness is infinite; there’s no danger of running out of it. You having more does not cause others to have less. Happiness isn’t always the big things. It doesn’t have to mean a trip to Hawaii; it could be as simple as holding hands with your spouse of 57 years over breakfast each day.

Bliss can happen in an instant and be accumulated over time. One moment leads to another, then another and another—soon, every moment is complete in and of itself. Being happy is not something to hide. Yes, there will be people who are jealous of your happiness and want to ruin it, but don’t let unhappiness prevail.

On the other hand, there are many unhappy people in the world who will be encouraged and inspired by your happiness. Do not flaunt it; show it as something anyone can attain. You never know when someone observes you being happy and then decides, “I want to do/have/be that,” and then goes out and adds their bliss and happiness to the world. There can never be too much.

If you really want to expand happiness exponentially, do something nice for someone else. You can volunteer for an organization, help out a friend or preform a random act of kindness without anyone knowing you did it. You could engage in some practiced moments of pure bliss by getting high on life. Don’t just make this a habit for the month of August. Every day should be Happiness Happens Day. Don’t let the minutia of your life keep you too busy or too focused on everything that is wrong. Don’t be robbed of today’s happy moments. Grab every bit of happiness that comes your way and share it with everyone you encounter. The world can always use more.

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