Mistaking Fun for Happiness

· October 29, 2017

The discussion about happiness and unhappiness could go on forever. Happiness is such an abstract and relative concept. It is nearly impossible to theorize about it without hitting a dead end. Having fun, on the other hand, is a lot easier to understand and in our culture we are guilty of mistaking fun for happiness. “Fun” can describe anything that breaks your routine and gives you satisfaction.

The bad news is that being happy and having fun are not the same things. Someone can have fun every day without feeling happy. However, the opposite can be true as well. Someone who doesn’t do many fun activities can still feel happy.

“My happiness consists of appreciating what I have and not excessively wanting what I don’t have.”

Leo Tolstoy

So, what am I trying to say? I’m simply trying to introduce the topic in order to arrive at a point of reflection: in the modern world, having fun has almost become mandatory. Sad people are only welcome in churches or psychologists’ offices. For that reason, someone who seems to have a lot of fun could be concealing great unhappiness.


Having fun to hide unhappiness

Some call it the “coca-cola society.” Remember one of the most famous slogans of this company: “Enjoy!” The ads features smiling people, surrounded by friends, traveling, adventuring, eating delicious food, and perfect partner by their side.

mistaking fun for happiness women

In recent decades, people have never stopped searching for the life these ads promise. One of the most terrifying words these days is “boredom.” And we assume that the opposite of boredom is the excess of excitement and intense activities. This shows in how we complement one another as well. For example, one might say “I love him because he makes me laugh” or “I love her because she doesn’t take things to heart.”

We believe that, to be happy, we must look like the people in the Coca-cola adds. However, their smiles are not real, they are just forced expressions. If you are having a hard time, there is no shortage of people inviting you to parties or trying to distract you with something fun to do.

Amusement and guilt

The need to enjoy ourselves is so strong that sometimes we feel guilty when we don’t feel like we are enjoying ourselves enough. 

mistaking fun for happiness woman

The fun, the moment of celebration, appear in human history as things connected to the sacred. Each culture has reserved special moments that interrupt daily life and give rise to a time to share with the community. They represent very important moments – times for shared joy and expression.

The eternal celebration of today, however, has become more and more programmed and based on commercials. In many cases it originates in anguish, rather than celebration. The worst thing, however, is when it becomes routine, which takes away much of its charm.

Mistaking fun for happiness

There was a time when enjoyment and satisfaction were seen as enemies to virtue. Sex was particularly looked down upon as a slippery slope to decadence. Pleasure was treated as something for less-civilized people. It was seen as lacking reason, and people who succumbed to it where seen as surrendering to their instincts.

Thanks to the contributions of many disciplines, including psychology, we have learned that satisfaction and pleasure are important components of good mental health. We have also learned that repressing desire can have negative consequences, even psychological ones.

mistaking fun for happiness

However, today it seems we must work the opposite way. We must learn that not everything needs to be enjoyed. Frustrations and deficiencies play an important role in our emotional growth and development. Now we look down on anything that does not imply fun and enjoyment. Having fun doesn’t give us any answers about why we are here. Going to a party doesn’t give us the key to personal happiness.