... the key to deeply experiencing pleasure is to be present with and consciously taking in what we are experiencing. Look around you at any moment of the day and notice what you like, however small. - Kristin Young
The Importance of Pleasure
by Kristin Young, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Pleasure. Our culture
offers it at every turn with entertainment and access to experiences of all
kinds, yet it seems to me that many of us are not that skilled at deeply
experiencing it, and are instead, often guarded against it. Taking pleasure in life is directly linked to
our happiness so the task of relearning what gives us pleasure and how to
deeply experience it is imperative if we want to experience more happiness.
Google dictionary defines pleasure as “A feeling of happy
satisfaction and enjoyment”. A lovely
word that often elicits caution in people when suggesting to them they need
more of it. In this culture, many of us
seem to have a belief that pleasure can lead us down a misguided path. Clients and friends speak of how following pleasure
leads to addictions, gluttony, and “falling off the wagon”. Images of drug addiction, intoxication,
obesity, sexual promiscuity and 10 hours spent playing computer games spring
into their heads. Thought of that way, following
pleasure is dangerous and is equivalent to making a deal with the devil.
With images of that sort coming to mind, I can understand
the concern! However, I actually believe
that NOT knowing, listening to and following that which genuinely pleases us
is, in truth, what eventually leads us to gluttony and addiction. When I talk about pleasure I am talking
about the feeling that we can have when we are in the present moment and consciously
taking full enjoyment in what we are experiencing. This is different than the feeling of relief
from discomfort and moving away from one’s self and the present moment that
addictions offer. Being present and
mindful is a key component of truly experiencing pleasure.
What we describe as being pleasurable is unique to each of
us. Opportunities abound for each of us
every day even when we are in the middle of unpleasant circumstances. We simply need to relearn how to pay
attention to our sensual experience (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching)
and recognize the feelings of “happy satisfaction and enjoyment” that come from
paying attention to even the most common experiences throughout our days. Once we get in the habit of paying attention
and experiencing pleasure, we will be inspired to continue the practice because
it feels good!
Many of us have not been taught the importance of taking
pleasure in life and how it can increase our happiness so we miss opportunities
every day to tune in to pleasure.
Consider when you are driving or walking and suddenly notice the moon
rising over the horizon, or you turn the corner just in time to witness a
gorgeous sunset. Such moments can ignite
feelings of pleasure and break us into the present moment if even for a short
Again, the key to deeply experiencing pleasure is to be present
with and consciously taking in what we are experiencing. Look around you at any moment of the day and
notice what you like, however small. Pay
attention to the pleasant feelings that are elicited when you tune into what
you like about right now. I understand, depending on your mood, some
moments will be easier than others to notice what you like, but most moments
offer some pleasure, however small.
You will of course have your own unique list, but here are
some examples of experiences any one of us might find to be pleasurable:
Talking with a good friend, quietly sitting and petting your
cat or dog, the sight and sound of a child laughing, the feeling of wearing
your favorite shirt, listening to your favorite song, the taste of a delicious
breakfast in the morning, taking a walk at dusk, doing a craft, the sight of
flowers in spring, learning a new skill, the feeling of laying down to sleep
after a long day, the feeling of the warm dish water on your hands while washing
dishes, the satisfaction of finishing a project, sleeping in, laughing with
people at work, the outside smell in early morning, feeling strong after a long
work out, the feeling of the sun on your face…Once you begin to take notice of
what you like and that which gives you pleasure, you will recognize how many
opportunities there are throughout your days for feeling good.
While life can be challenging and difficult at times and I
am not attempting to make light of that, I am suggesting that despite the
struggles that we may find ourselves in the midst of, opportunities abound for
us to bring more “happy satisfaction and enjoyment” into our daily lives. We can all use more of that! So asking yourself, “What’s your pleasure in
this moment?” Can mean the difference between a dull, forgettable moment and a
mindful, happy one.
Kristin Young has been working with clients for over eight years. She works with individuals and couples on a short and long term basis in her Santa Rosa and San Rafael offices. She also leads groups and has interest in multi cultural spiritual traditions. You can find out more about Kristin at her website.
Labels: Acceptance, Kristin Young, pleasure, Presence