Have you ever felt a little rush at how many likes you’ve got on a social media post? Or felt a little bit sassy getting into the lift holding an artisan coffee? Or spent a little more on a designer beer, or pair of trainers or sunglasses? Feels good doesn’t it? That’s dopamine.

The chemical that rushes your brain when you do something which gives you pleasure. The very same chemical which causes addiction - the more you have, the more you want. And the more you have, the less of a rush you get every time, which makes you crave bigger and bigger doses of the thing which gave you the hit in the first place.

It’s easy to think of this in terms of ‘classic’ addictions - nicotine, alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex. Dopamine has got those things nailed, but it’s more mundane than that, it’s everywhere in our everyday lives. And we are being sold it at every turn by brands and advertisers and TV shows and social media platforms and people’s perfect lives appearing better than our own.

The good news? There is an antidote to dopamine. It’s called happiness. Happiness is very different to pleasure and it’s caused by a different chemical, that behaves in a very different way - serotonin. The difference? Dopamine craves more dopamine, serotonin exists happily on its own. You can buy a hit of dopamine, but you can’t buy serotonin - it exists when you feel it. It is built on relationships and personal connections, empathy, giving, sharing, sound sleep. In short, it’s about contentment and many of the elements of contentment don’t cost money.

Understanding the vital difference between pleasure and happiness doesn’t require scaling a mountain to meditate, but it’s pretty important. Remember you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy unhappiness if you endlessly spend money on the pursuit of pleasure.

Think about how you spend your time and money. Does it make you happy? Or does it just give you momentary bursts of pleasure? Not all short-term pleasures are bad, far from it. But remember, dopamine is the chemical of addiction. The idea is not to remove all the short-term pleasures in your life, but to view your spending from the position of if it make you happy, and not simply gives you pleasure. Maybe your money might be better deployed if saved and contributed towards something that builds long-term happiness?

Pleasure feels good, and makes you want more. When you have the things you need, you are happy.

Spend Happy. Save Happy. Live Happy