Why does chocolate make us feel happy but the happiness never lasts?

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We think that our happiness comes from the world around us, but what most people call happiness is the temporary removal of misery. Happiness is much more.

Often, we think that our happiness comes from the world around us – our family, our friends, our work, and our possessions. When we don’t have the things that we think we need to be happy, we desire to obtain them. We long to buy new things, such as a new car, a new laptop, or a new outfit.

In our new book The Environmental Fix: How Reprogramming Your Mind Achieves Wellbeing and Resolves Climate Change, we explore what drives consumers’ desires and thought patterns. We take readers on a journey where they can delve into the uncharted waters of their mind and their material desires. Whether you have read The EnvironMental Fix book or not, you may find it useful to use our supplementary resource ‘Identifying Your Desires – Checklist’.

Desires temporarily relieve our boredom and suffering

How difficult is it some days to get through work without needing a mid-afternoon sweet fix or an extra coffee or tea? Our desires can be so overpowering that they motivate us to get through an entire working week. Looking forward to the weekend because of upcoming plans that involve a social event, a day trip or mini-break, shopping, a movie, a restaurant gathering, or other activity is pervasive in the minds of most people.

What is happiness?

To gain a deeper insight into our fixes requires a brief and simple understanding of happiness. As an example, let’s examine the common vice of chocolate. Some of you may even be salivating at the very mention of the word. But hold that craving for one moment. Say you ate one piece of chocolate. It tastes good and you feel pretty happy about the experience. Well, for a few seconds that may be the case. But then you think that it would be nice to get another fix of that happiness, so you eat a second piece. And a piece of chocolate normally prefers to be eaten in pairs, so why not double the happiness fix with two more pieces. You would most likely be feeling pretty happy after that. Let’s say you were to eat the rest of the block of chocolate, a big block. As you are eating the last piece and your stomach is beginning to feel ill from overeating, are you receiving the happiness that the first piece gave you? Does the thought of chocolate still make you happy? Most likely not. Chocolate no longer brings you the same level of happiness. Why would that be? Because chocolate in and of itself is not the cause of your happiness.

How do we find lasting happiness?

Happiness is a state of mind, not reliant on the physical piece of chocolate. If the chocolate did in reality bring happiness, it would always bring happiness. Not conditionally, but always. The kind of happiness chocolate brings is temporary. What this ultimately indicates is that the worldly fixes that we so heavily desire are not what lead to lasting happiness. So, what does lead to lasting happiness? The simple answer is a peaceful and contented mind. And the less we live life driven by fulfilling our desires, the more peaceful our minds become.

So how can you achieve greater peace of mind? Here’s five simple ways you can start today:

1. Meditate

For at least five minutes each day, meditate or take the time to observe your breathing. As you breathe in, say to yourself, “I am breathing in love.” As you breathe out, say to yourself, “I am breathing out peace.”

2. Practise mindfulness throughout your day

When you are eating, walking, cooking, cleaning or reading, be fully present. Notice what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and feel.

3. Spend time in nature

Each day, either exercise, go for a walk, spend time gardening, or simply be still sitting outdoors in the fresh air. Connecting to the natural surrounds will also assist in managing climate anxiety.

4. Place a cap on your desires

Notice what you consume from the material world each day and strive to reduce any unnecessary things that you think you need to be happy.

5. Lead a planned, moderate lifestyle

Observe the activities you do each day and become more aware of where you may be wasting time on unnecessary tasks. The process of self-analysis can also help you simplify your life and reduce any excessive behaviours – for example, work, sleep, social media, gossiping, eating, shopping, or intoxicants.  

Copyright © James Golding and Leisa Golding 2020

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