Recently someone commented to me that after I moved past this separation transition phase onto my new life, I could begin to have fun. The comment threw me. I thought I was already having moments of fun. Besides, my ultimate aim in life is for happiness aided by moments of joy.
What is the difference?
‘Fun‘ means a short-term activity, especially a leisure activity, that brings on feelings of excitement, merriment and laughter.
‘Joy‘ is an intense feeling of great delight or a relaxed feeling of pleasure.
‘Happiness‘ is a state of mind, an inner feeling of contentment and well-being.
The question is, while I had been filling my days with things that gave me joy and pleasure, was I having fun? More importantly, was including ‘fun’ necessary for my ultimate ‘happiness’.
There are different types of activities that provide pleasure: exciting activities (parties, dancing, exhilarating sports); relaxation (reading, nature, watching movies); socialising (family, friend, coffee with workmates); experiential (travelling, going to a show); and growth activities (learning a musical instrument, finishing a project, helping someone).
I believe if you are happy then any of the above pleasurable activities can add to your happiness. Furthermore, distractions from adversities by engaging in such activities can also be important, even healing. On the other hand, if your inner soul is not at peace, then pleasurable short-term activities provide a distraction but they do not ultimately lead to happiness. In fact constantly engaging in distracting fun activities can sometimes impinge on lifetime happiness. Here are some examples:
Eating ice-cream or cake is fun. Over-eating can lead to overweight, lower self-esteem and block ultimate happiness. Shopping is fun. Shopping to excess or getting too far into debt can lead to financial difficulties and put you under distress. Parties uplift the spirits. Drinking to excess can lead to relationship problems. Holidays are pleasurable. Excess travel can lead to being discontent with your normality. Watching TV is relaxing. Engaging in aimless activities to excess prevents you from seeking more meaningful activities.
To experience pleasure from growth activities, which can be the ultimate source of personal fulfillment, initially may mean sacrificing short-term pleasure for sustained happiness. For example: giving up mindless relaxation in order to practice a musical instrument ultimately leads to greater happiness when you become an accomplished musician. Becoming more educated means putting in years of study in lieu of other pastimes. Living frugally, budgeting wisely and investing soundly leads to eventual financial independence and the ultimate freedom to enjoy ‘fun’ activities without guilt.
Probably the initial comment at the start of this post was that, by some definitions of ‘fun’, I was missing out on some activities – those short-term bursts of excitement .
My thoughts are, rather than me missing out on or avoiding those activities, there is the fact that I am now making my own choices entirely by what is right for me. I am engaging in activities more suited to my introvert personality and my need for stability. I prefer planned rather than spontaneous events. I enjoy relaxation over engaging in frenetic pastimes. I choose not to sacrifice long-term financial security for buying meaningless objects or attending shallow events. I love interacting with people one-on-one or in small groups rather than in large crowds. I get pleasure out of completing projects with a long-term sense of accomplishment rather than doing activities that yield a short-term buzz of excitement. Whilst I do savour short-term pleasurable moments, I steer towards simple moments of ‘joy‘ – those intense feelings of pleasure – watching the sunrise, seeing my grandchildren play and learn, engaging with my loved ones, and finishing my self-assigned projects to the best of my ability. These moments endure and can be looked back at with gladness. In that respect they are longer-lasting and therefore, I believe, ultimate contributors to my overall happiness.
To be truly happy means knowing myself and living by my own inner compass. My definition of happiness is up to me. Becoming happy by my definition is also up to me.
I believe I am already on my way to happiness. Living my own true self towards self-fulfillment, towards my highest self, can only add to my long-term happiness.
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂