Pleasure is an important component of happiness. It re-energizes, refreshes, and renews us after the hard work of life. It gives us relief from thoughts about our stressors and it is a reward that gives us motivation to keep moving toward being our best.
In this first part of a 3-Part Series I will discuss the definition of pleasure and give an overview of ways to increase your pleasure.
What is Pleasure?
Pleasure is fleeting raw emotion that is brought on by social, environmental, and physical factors. Happy social events such as parties, family dinners, and weddings give us pleasure. Environments like Yosemite, a bustling San Francisco street, or Disneyland incite pleasure. Physical factors that create pleasure include eating vanilla ice cream, wrapping ourselves in a warm soft blanket, or receiving a hug from a friend.
We experience pleasure through our senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell. Pleasure is a Van Gogh painting, Diana Krahl’s velvet voice, a kitten’s soft fur, ripe strawberries, or the aroma of sweet lavender drifting on a spring breeze.
Unfortunately pleasure has a pitfall: it habituates easily. This means that if you imbibe in the same pleasure too much or too often, it has less positive impact on you. I like to use the example of chocolate. When you take the first bite of chocolate, you feel it melt in your mouth and you taste the bitter and the sweet. You may say, “hmmm.” In the subsequent bites, you are less conscious of the taste.
Another example is music. If you listened to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” 24 hours a day, it would not only loose its positive impact and but would probably become irritating.
So how can you increase your pleasure?
In Authentic Happiness Martin Seligman, Ph.D. gives some important strategies for increasing our pleasure:
- Avoid habituating pleasure
- Spread out your instances of pleasure
- Enjoy a variety of pleasures
- Savor pleasure
- Be present and conscious
- Sharpen your perceptions
- Be absorbed in the experience
- Share the experience and build memories of it
- Anticipate pleasure
- Savor pleasure
- Be mindful
- Slow down
- Sense your surroundings
Spreading Out the Instances of Pleasure
It’s easy to habituate pleasure. We go to the same restaurant and eat the same thing, take the same route for our walk every day, listen to the same music, and play the same sport.
You can avoid habituating pleasure by spreading out the instances of it. If you listened to “Born to Run” just once every Saturday morning, it would be enjoyable every time.
In my life I spread out pleasurable activities by only going to Pasta Al Dente restaurant once a month, walking a different route every day (and saving the Naples Canals for the weekend), and only reading “People” magazine on Sunday afternoons.
I want to challenge you to apply this Life Coaching tip to your life. For the next month spread your pleasurable activities throughout your week, month, and year.
Look for Part 2 of this series on pleasure in which I will discuss other strategies for increasing your pleasure.
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