today’s video is one of my favorites because I dig into happiness and break down the different kinds of happiness, from pleasure to joy, to happiness and then bliss. Studying fitness, psychology, philosophy, mind science, spirituality, and doing meditation for the past decade, I spent a lot of time understanding various levels of happiness.
Sigmund Freud, the father of western psychology said that what we call being normal, being healthy is general unhappiness. This is what being normal is about, hence why so many of us, even when healthy are looking for something more, let’s call it true happiness.
I think if you learn to differentiate the various types of happiness, you will have a better idea of how to navigate your life and reach higher levels of emotional maturation and happiness while reducing levels of suffering in your life, physical and mental. As you will see, higher levels of happiness have less downside. For example, drug addiction to cocaine provides a lot of pleasure, but at what cost, because the level of suffering is pretty high.
Every month, I make a theme video, one video that is longer and focused on a specific subject. In previous months, I made one called thinking in systems, another one called LSD, Molly and Weed… and another on Racism.
Since we are in the heart of the holiday season, I choose a video on happiness for this month. In the past few years, I became less enthusiastic, less excited and happy about the holiday season and to an extent, to every holiday of the year. Because I want more…why increase my happiness only during holidays like a puppet, why not reach a stable state of inner peace and long-lasting happiness every day. Why settle for less?
There are only 11 public holidays in the US every year, and you see some people who are so happy in the days leading to holidays. They call it the holidays spirit, or just another marketing slogan to get people to spend more money.
But you also have the TGIF people, who thank god it’s Friday…but in actuality, this is an insult to god, he created 7 days and you are so happy for only one day, Friday, and then maybe Saturday. Please don’t bring God into this, it’s not his fault if you cannot be happy 365 days a year, you are setting your own limits.
Then lastly you have those I call the weather people, whose emotion shifts or swing, according to the weather outside, cold, dark, rainy, they are sad, moody, low energy…then as soon as the weather is better, boom, they are ecstatic, they cannot stay inside, they have to go out, meet with friends, they cannot focus at work…they become hyper extroverted, life is good as long as the weather is good.
From the Holiday people to the TGIF and the Weather people, all of them fit into the category of sensory pleasure, the lowest form of happiness you can reach. And this is what I told my mom during a conversation to move away from, go toward higher levels of happiness because what we call pleasure don’t last, we get used to it quickly and crave for more. In the worst-case scenario, some become addicted to sensory pleasure.
If you want to reach emotional maturation and higher states of happiness, your happiness cannot be at the mercy of what day of the week it is, or thanksgiving, or a warm and sunny weather. To me, that doesn’t look like happiness, more like emotional slavery, because you are not in control of your happiness. Emotional maturation is the only true freedom.
Before going further, here are the 4 groups of happiness from the lowest to the highest levels I will dig into:
You have Sensory pleasure, what we all call pleasure..like eating an ice cream
Then you have Joy, which is a form of mental pleasure, like achieving a goal
Then you have True Happiness, which is a deeper level of Joy, joy is like the wave, true happiness is like the ocean at deeper levels
Then you have the highest states of happiness like inner-peace and bliss. Basically, a state of happiness that is neither physical nor mental, it’s like a form of happiness at the core of your soul, at your center, which when developed, never leaves you.
Now, I will break each one so you can understand these different dimensions of happiness and decide which ones you already experienced and how high you want to go. Dimensions of happiness is the right word because they are not all located at the same level of your being.
When you deconstruct who you are, you can observe how you are made of a physical body, a mind, and something being your mind. The observer of your thoughts and mind, the one who experiences.
This is the reason you say, my body hurts, the body is part of you but not you…or you say, I feel sad, you are experiencing an emotion, but the emotion is not you.
This witness aspect of who we are is called consciousness, some people call it the soul or spirit. Each of the three parts that make you YOU have an associated form of happiness. It’s very important to understand this.
Spirituality, in the right form, and now positive psychology are both focused on happiness at the level of your spirit, your soul, your consciousness.
The lowest form of happiness is the one we share with animals: Sensory pleasure. Reflect a bit on this and you will see that what we call pleasure, some call it happiness, only comes when one of our 5 senses is triggered in the right way. This is why it’s called sensory pleasure.
We have 5 senses…which can lead to 5 types of sensory pleasure you can experience. I will go over some examples of each so you can see them in your daily life. The goal is to become more aware of what kind of happiness you experience every day.
Listening to some good music can lead to pleasure, we feel happy…So it’s a sensory pleasure via Hearing…
Having Sex or Dancing can also lead to pleasure..we feel happy…So it’s a sensory pleasure via touch
Then eating some delicious food, we also feel good, happy…So it’s a sensory pleasure via taste
Watching a good tv show, looking at someone who beautiful, or arts, some beautiful landscape can lead us to feel some type of pleasure…this happens via the sense of sight
Smelling some good food, or an amazing perfume..or the fragrance of nature in the spring, in a park or a forest, can also lead to sensory pleasure via the sense of smell.
As you can see, there are many, many ways to reach sensory pleasure, and in many cases, like food, all our senses are triggered: sight, smell, and taste are involved in eating.
Dancing to some good music, you have touch, actually, here it’s called proprioception which is almost a 6th sense that is combined with hearing…
We also experience sensory pleasure from the three actions we perform in life. Thinking, Speaking, and Acting physically. We can generate some sensory pleasure using these three actions every day.
Now, it’s important to realize that we live at a time where sensory pleasures is our God, capitalism combined with technological achievements made by cheap energy enables billions of people to access happiness via sensory pleasure.
Pleasure via eating, pleasure with technological gadgets like the TV, traveling on a plane or car all around the world to experience new things, eye candy landscapes or exotic food…pleasure via dressing up, pleasure via sex, pleasure via entertainment, music, and things of that nature.
Our ancestors did not have access to the level of wealth we currently have in the world. Our current economies led billions of people out of poverty, where basic human needs are covered. There are still billions of people who don’t have daily access to food, shelter or water, but capitalism helped many come out of the survival mode of living.
Technological innovation from capitalism led to machines and then overproduction. We went from covering all our basic needs to having too much stuff. Then many people thought… the more the better, so our society and the world created a new religion… Consumerism, which is basically triggering sensory pleasure with new stuff…over and over and over again.
Binging on food, binging on relationships, binging on tv shows, traveling all over the world, having the freshest clothes, 50.000 songs on your old iPod now collecting dust, 100K images on your phone…we live in an era of sensory gratification to the max.
Yet some people were not satisfied with all this stuff, so they discovered ways of pleasure from ingesting chemicals or natural plants to trigger their senses directly, either to spice up their weekend, recreationally or in the worst-case scenario, by becoming addicted to drugs.
Next thing you know, business was booming for drug cartels and drug dealers…Depression and pandemics led to billion-dollar profits for tobacco and alcohol corporations. Al Capone, El Chapo, Escobar, they all provided sensory pleasure just like Mcdonald’s and Disney does. They are all in the same business.
I can go on and on about different types of sensory pleasure but that’s not the aim of this video. I just want to share with you what I started to realize, that all this sensory pleasure, all this technological stuff gave me a superficial, short-lived type of happiness and pleasure. I remember back in college… you get the new Jordan, you feel cool and happy for a second before hunting for another shoe, chasing again. You become a fashion victim, another word for emotional slave.
You don’t need to be Einstein to realize that every form of happiness via sensory pleasure, from sex to delicious food or watching Queen’s Gambit on Netflix comes and goes faster than a shooting star, and we are left wanting more. As I said in the video on needs, we go from empty to full, full to empty. Sensory pleasure binds you in a loop your entire life.
What’s worse is that the more you trigger your sensory pleasure, the less pleasure you get in return. You reach a point of diminishing return, also called down-regulation in the brain.
So there are two limits to sensory pleasure, one is that pleasure doesn’t last long…Second is that you experience less pleasure over time from the same stimulation. So you have to either up your dosage or increase quantity, which radically reshapes your brain chemistry. At that point, your baseline happiness is pretty low. You are now a perfect consumer.
Once you realize the limits of sensory pleasure, the limits of consumerism, and endless consumption, you can now look for higher forms of happiness.
So let’s talk about Joy, which is a form of psychological, mental happiness. Less dependent on physical pleasure. First, notice the difference between sensory pleasure and mental pleasure I label as Joy here. You can physically be tired, yet because you just reach a big goal, you access a state of mental joy that overpower your physical fatigue.
For example,in the final of a championship, the winning team is tired, if not more tired than the losing team yet they are so happy, because of joy which is mental, not physical.
Now, if you construct your life in a way that you are aiming at Joy more than at sensory pleasure, you will access a better, more stable and long-lasting form of happiness. And this is where finding your purpose in life, meaning, or the right job that stimulates you mentally is so important.
This is why Nietzsche said, “If you know the why, you can live anyhow.” There is something magical about having meaningful goals in life because it makes you endure the grind of daily life…Endure is the wrong word here because so many people love the hard work that leads them to their goals, like a sword master polishing his sword day after day.
Or even better, finding your calling, where money to buy sensory pleasure is not as gratifying as perfecting your skills… because you found your WHY to exist. This is how some doctors can work barely sleeping, with so much to manage yet be upbeat and happy every day. You hear that from athletes sometimes, that god put them on earth to play this or that sport. They have purpose.
Now, there are still downsides to mental joy from having goals and finding meaning in your life, but the downsides are less destructive than sensory pleasure. It’s important you first realize that Joy is 100 times more powerful than sensory pleasure because it allows you to become less dependent on triggering physical pleasure every day.
You will be happy even if your senses are not triggered to release pleasure like hormones in your body…Joy helps you stay relatively happy even if the weather is not optimal, if your food is just alright, or if you don’t look your best today. Because you have purpose.
Let’s go over the downsides of mental Joy. First, not everyone can find meaning in life, there are now close to 8 billion people on earth, so not everybody does what they really want to do every day.
Second, you have people who had something meaningful, goals in life that pulled them in the space of mental joy but they were not able to reach those goals, or what gave them meaning is gone. So what to do, many people end up facing various levels of depression and anxiety after losing things that gave them meaning, a divorce, the loss of someone, losing a dream job, becoming physically limited, losing children or pets.
Because what gives up purpose and meaning can fade away or disappear, a whole philosophy emerge in Europe 200 years ago and thousands of years ago in Asia. It’s called existentialism and then Nihilism. Individuals, philosophers, and mystics who realized that life, from a certain point of view, was meaningless.
This is illustrated by the famous story of Sisyphus by Albert Camus the french philosopher, where meaning in life is equated to pushing a big boulder to the top of the mountain to have it fall down again, we end up repeating this story our entire lives.
You have people who get their dream job, they feel so happy it’s like they can levitate because reaching your goals and finding meaning can uplift you. Yet after a while, even some of the best jobs in the world can become meaningless. You fall back down to earth. And it’s very common for people who lost mental joy to fall into sensory pleasure and worse, addictions.
Addiction to drugs, addiction to food, many people who lost meaning and purpose use addiction to cope with the loss of joy, trying to fill this void.
But they are other levels of happiness you can reach, it’s really up to you. The next one is True, unconditional happiness, one that does not depend on endless physical pleasure or having goals and meaning in your life. Hence why I call it unconditional happiness, it’s not dependent on something external.
Of course, you need some basic needs covered…like food, water, and shelter. But beyond that, you don’t need much to be happy because your baseline state in life is happy. It’s almost absurd, how can someone be happy for no reason, yet it’s what true happiness is all about. Sadly, in today’s consumerism culture, billions of people don’t know that this state is possible.
As you might know, some people in life have genuine happiness that other people don’t have. Genetics might play a role here. Some people are somewhat always upbeat, always optimistic. But everybody can reach this state of true happiness, which way deeper than Joy and last longer because there is a true transformation of your mind, just like lifting weight build muscle.
This state of true happiness stays in your shadow, like an undercurrent…Whether you are experiencing difficulties in life, mentally or physically, if you have true happiness, you can always tap into it and change your mood back to this baseline. You bounce back easily.
Now, the recipe for developing true happiness is simple, yet simple is not easy. The answer is emotional maturation, which is the result of maximizing positive mind states and emotions while burning toxic emotions.
We humans arrive in the world with seeds of positive and negative emotions. Joy is an emotion like anger, and we can amplify those seeds, you can destroy roots of jealousy in you and magnify joy, amplify discipline, detachment, enthusiasm, equanimity, reduce reactivity and hatred.
True happiness is similar to a healthy body. For your body to be healthy, you need fitness and nutrition. For your mind to reach true happiness, you need mental fitness, which leads to peak wellness, blossoming.
Now in the context of being in shape, losing weight, eating healthy, you can see how beneficial accessing true happiness within the mind can be. You are more likely to eat healthy and stay fit because your happiness is not entirely dependent on sensory pleasure, especially food.
Yet, beyond true happiness, lies another realm. For thousands of years, this dimension was in the domain of mystics, individuals who are spiritual in the right sense. Mass religion is fake and superficial, is about culture, identification with a group, and sharing some common values. But the core of spirituality is focused on raising your state of happiness to the highest level, or better yet, returning to your core, your center, your essence.
To put it simply, over the past five thousand years, some people realized that there are states of being that one can achieve by digging within, going deeper, like peeling the layers of an onion, and finding out that what we are, our essence, it’s spaciousness, at the core of the onion. And there is a feeling associated with this realization, ultimate happiness.
I called this video dimension of happiness because physical happiness gives you pleasure, mental happiness gives you joy, then deeper, true happiness. But if you stay seated in the observer seat, you immediately access a state of inner calm with a cool, zen-like happiness. You are not lost in the movies of your mind anymore, falling victim to short-lived emotions and sensory pleasure.
And that state of being is available right now, it’s just a matter of returning to your original state of being. There is an African word for that called Sankofa, meaning, go back and get it. Hence Jesus saying the kingdom of heaven is within you.
It’s up to you, thank you