How to be happy: is weed a short-term “pleasure” or a long-term solution?

The key to being truly happy is finding the right kind of happiness, which means cultivating meaning and purpose in your life.

How to be happy

As you sit back on your couch and blaze up, you may take some comfort in the expectation that the feeling you’ve been looking forward to, is about to take hold. But is your ‘high happiness’ one that will last for ever, or something you’ll need to continuously top up to feel more complete or even just OK?

How can I be happy?

We all want to be happy. When we think about what makes us happy, what may immediately come to mind are things like going on holiday, eating chocolate, buying a new car or winning the lottery. We also may think about not having things in our lives that make us unhappy, like doing housework or having a stressful job. Basically, maximising pleasure and minimising pain. Yet often, when we do buy or experience these things to make us feel happy, we only feel happy for a short time. In fact, research has shown that even lottery winners return to their pre-win levels of happiness only a short period after their windfall. So is all pleasure so fleeting? Is there a way to be happier for longer?

According to the evidence, while you may think happiness and pleasure are the same thing, or that all happiness is created equal – unfortunately that’s just not the case. An increasing body of research is saying that while pleasure seeking activities and purchases can be fun and make us feel good, they don’t actually provide that long-lasting happiness that so many of us are fervently seeking. In fact, in ‘science-speak’, creating happiness or pleasure as a response to a stimulus or behaviour, or self-gratification (such as eating chocolate or buying a new car), is known as ‘hedonic well-being’ and will not provide a lasting happiness or sense of well-being.

So if chocolate (or weed in your case) aren’t going to make for a truly happier life – how can I be happy?

How to be happy: positive psychology

Finding the secret to happiness is very in vogue nowadays. There’s the positive psychology movement, Buddhism, even the annual ‘Happiness And Its Causes conference in Sydney.

There’s been a lot of research over the last 10 years into what gives us true and lasting happiness. One of the leaders in this field, is the positive psychology movement. Research in this area advocates that you need to cultivate eudaimonic happiness – a type of happiness created by having a sense of purpose or meaning in your life. According to the thinking, you can achieve this by moving past yourself and your own immediate pleasures, and instead use your strengths, time and energy for the greater good.

Now, you don’t need to be Mother Tereasa to achieve true happiness (though she may have had soaring levels of eudaimonic happiness!) – a purpose comes in a lot of forms, and really your purpose is something quite personal to you. You could volunteer for an organisation that you believe is contributing to society, or look for one of the plenty of paid jobs that add value to the community. For some, it will be the opportunity to be a good mum or dad and raise strong kids into adults, or for others tripping around the globe and experiencing every drop of culture the world has to provide. The trick, it seems, is to find something that you believe has purpose and meaning for your life and concentrate on going in that direction, rather than focusing on trying to acquire hedonistic pleasures over and over again. There’s even some new research out that suggests that having eudaimonic happiness can change your genes and make you healthier, while hedonistic happiness can have the opposite effect – no doubt they’ll need to do more research, but the thought that happiness can have so much power over our well-being should be a motivation for all of us to figure out what it is that truly drives us.

So, what’s stopping me? How can I be happy?

It’s safe to say that cannabis use would fall into the hedonistic pleasures camp. While you might enjoy smoking weed at the time you’re doing it, it’s not going to bring you long-lasting happiness – and this need to experience that same ‘high’ can lead to using over and over again, and to possible addiction. If anything, the time, energy and money you may spend smoking weed is time, energy and money not spent doing activities that cultivate meaning and purpose in your life! If you suspect weed might be getting in the way of your happiness, check out some of our short factsheets about how weed can negatively affect you, such as mental health, addiction, and effects on the brain.

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