Happiness and Distractions: Here’s The Difference Between Them

To determine if you are truly happy, ask yourself this question...

Written by Amy C · 3 min read >
Happiness and Distractions: Here's The Difference Between Them - Heart Hackers Club - happiness - Amy Chan

This year, I uprooted from Vancouver and moved to California in order to further pursue my career. I went from having a community of friends, family and colleagues that I spent 31 years of my life building, to a city where I had zero friends, zero reputation, and zero invites on the weekends.  It’s been challenging. There have been moments where I felt completely and utterly alone. When at the end of an intense and emotionally exhausting day, I’d give anything for a hug from someone I loved. I’ve spent my entire life in Vancouver with a filled schedule of activities, events and company, and for the first time in my life, I had to learn how to be alone. I had to learn the true value of happiness.

In my discomfort of being alone, I’ve started to thinking about happiness, and what being happy truly means. I’ve concluded that our society has confused the definition of happiness with pleasure.

Pleasure exists when you “have” something – status, the high from a new lover, the rush when you buy something new… Our media promotes a culture of chasing pleasure. What they don’t show you is that the pleasure felt when you consume and indulge is fleeting.

Some pleasures last longer than others. But for the most part, when you no longer have that source of pleasure, you experience the flipside: pain. For example, you are “happy” when the apple of your eye returns your affections. But then you are ridden in angst and pain when that attention is gone.

Pleasure cannot exist without pain. To alleviate the pain, we distract, medicate and satiate ourselves so that we fill the gaps and quickly move on to the next source of pleasure. We keep chasing. Similarly to how a cocaine user relies on the next hit to prolong the high, we hustle for pleasure and push off the pain. But, inevitably, it catches up to us.

Instead of chasing pleasure, I think it’s important we start thinking about how we can build joy. Joy is something that is not dependent on one person or thing. Joy is lasting, it is an energy. It is a sense of peace, which does not disappear even if you lose your job, your money and your material things. It is a baseline of contentment, of calm, of gratitude, of empowerment, fulfillment and love. By no means am I saying to abstain from the things that provide pleasure; rather, I suggest you understand the difference, so you don’t get caught up in a insatiable appetite of pleasure seeking.

When we are not conscious of the difference between pleasure and joy, we live in a “happiness” bubble. Our day to day is filled with “stuff” – meetings, deals, social media, hustle, vices, and so forth. We don’t allow ourselves a moment to be still, to be “bored”. Because in the moment where there is no noise, we face having to be with ourself, and often, that moment makes us realize how lonely and unfulfilled we really are.

Consequently, we are seeing a generation becoming more disconnected, unfulfilled and distracted than ever before. And they have no idea why because there are no quiet moments left in order to reflect, and ask the self those hard questions, let alone the time to discover the answer.

Being alone in this city has given me the time and space to contemplate this. In a sense, my bubble bursted. I’m recognizing the unhealthy habits I’ve created to distract myself from being still. Heck, I can’t even bear waiting at a stoplight without the urge to check Instagram.

I’m learning that true happiness is joy. And the barometer of joy is an ability to find peace in stillness – to not have attention, distractions, accolades and a reliance on the energy of others in order to make me feel “full”.  I’m on a journey to re-learn some of my ways of living, and to retrain myself with small daily habits that will feed my spirit and ability to be present.

How will I achieve this? I don’t really know. But I do know that the behaviors you repeat become habit, and habits become norms.  And I don’t want my everyday normal to be a life where I’m addicted to being satiated, where my phone takes priority over the person in front of me, where my mind is constantly divided, and I’m deathly afraid of being still.

I’ll end off with a question to you. To determine if you are truly happy, ask yourself, if you were to lose it all – the house, the things, the relationship, the looks, the status… would you still have a baseline of joy inside you? What are you left with if all the external variables are taken away? Is your happiness contingent on a person, a place or a thing? If so, you may want to discover ways you can add to a baseline of happiness and contentment to balance  out that dichotomy of pleasure and joy.

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Written by Amy C
Amy Chan is the Founder of Renew Breakup Bootcamp, a retreat that takes a scientific and spiritual approach to healing the heart. Marie Claire calls her "A relationship expert whose work is like that of a scientific Carrie Bradshaw" and her company has been featured across national media including Good Morning America, Vogue, Glamour, Nightline along with the front page of The New York Times. Her book, Breakup Bootcamp - The Science of Rewiring Your Heart, published by Harper Collins, will be released Fall 2020. Profile

53 Replies to “Happiness and Distractions: Here’s The Difference Between Them”

  1. Great post. “Joy is something that is not dependent on one person or thing. Joy is lasting…”

    You’re so right to recognize that everything in creation is fleeting and subject to change, and is therefore unable to provide perfect and lasting satisfaction.

    Might it be that since nothing in creation can satisfy us, that must look to something outside of creation? Perhaps a Creator?

    Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

  2. Great post! My best friend from Canada shared your blog with me. I totally get you and you inspired me to think about my own personal Joy. Hope you are doing well…..finding your new self. Stay strong. Your life begins just outside your comfort zone so congratulations for having the faith and moxy to do what you are doing! I relate more than you know. Best, Dana

  3. Great post. We all need some time to meditate, reflect upon our daily lives and realize that our existence is more than extraneous validation via social media, material things, and people. To be content with the way things are with oneself is priceless or will turn into a cup that will never be filled.

  4. Well said Amy. Stillness. Peace and Joy from within–It’s an inside job. Wish I got to know you better when I lived in Vancity. I can appreciate the emotional and logical depth. You remind me; if I want to write…write. Happy 2014 wishing you much joy and inner peace.

  5. Very interesting post, thought provoking. I encourage you to think more widely and deeply about these ideas. Happiness and joy are linked to the spirit and the community aspects of health – as represented in the hierarchy of healthicine: http://healthicine.org/wordpress/principles-of-healthicine/hierarchy-healthicine/ They are also linked to our goals. We are happier when we have goals that are out of our hands, but potentially within our grasp.

    Happiness is a subset of healthiness – and I have suggested that we need to replace “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” with ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness”, based on the conclusion that it is possible to be unhealthy, and happy, but not to be ‘unhappy’ and healthy.

  6. I agree. Happiness is a choice, a behavior and a lifestyle. Seeking happiness from the outside is fleeting, but finding it from the inside is lasting.

  7. Thank you for this post. It’s very inspiring to me. I, too, left my family and friends in Seattle and moved to another city where I have very little friends and family to lean on. Although it’s been 2 years, it’s very hard for me to find peace and happiness when all I see on social network is all the fun my friends are having without me. It has been hard to make friends in a city where people complain that they don’t even have enough time to spend with the friends they already have much less want to get to know new people. I thought something was wrong with me that they would reject my friendship. This year I vowed to find my own happiness in being on my own, to search and nourish my spiritual side, and reinvent myself into someone I’ve always wanted to be regardless if I have a cheering squad or not. Again, thank you for writing this and best o luck to you and your search for happiness.

  8. I’ve often thought about this…and a direction that I’m exploring, is to find meaningful experiences. Something with purpose. It must have a greater impact, otherwise, what am I doing with my life?

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