By Melissa Lafrance on May 2, 2019
Guest contribution by Dr. Thara Vayali
Pleasure is associated with many different things. It can occur beneath the sheets, at the finish of a difficult project or with devotional work. Occasionally, pleasure is associated with hedonism, the unrelenting pursuit of self-indulgence.
More often, pleasure is associated with instant gratification, but it’s important to differentiate between the two. The body and mind don’t have to exert much effort to achieve instant gratification; the reward is small, and the chemicals that signal pleasure are fleeting. Pleasure itself, however, is simpler: it’s a mental or physical sensation of joy and has longer-lasting effects in the body. The sensation of pleasure is the result of a well-deserved “win” in the context of feeling safe and calm. For example, finishing a race at your fastest pace can feel well-deserved and safe – if you’ve trained regularly and the race course was filled with people who support you.
Human beings are continually searching for pleasurable experiences, yet it is a state that can only exist under two circumstances that may not be easy to achieve: reward and safety.
Reward is a journey of effort and achievement. Safety is both a physical and emotional necessity. While physical safety is occasionally out of our control, we can speak about ourselves more positively, which can help develop a safe, emotional environment where pleasure can exist.
Mindful awareness of our habits in daily life can allow us to open up to pleasure when we want to. While reward and safety may be complex concepts to understand, I offer you some ideas for exploring these concepts to help you increase your capacity for pleasure.
Create a challenge deadline and give yourself meaningful challenges. For example, if you’ve always wanted to publish a book, set up a schedule to write each morning. Challenge yourself to read aloud from your book draft by the end of a season and invite anyone you feel supported by.
The “effortful” work of creating a reward challenge means that:
- it is important enough for you to stay committed even when someone else’s needs filter in.
- it exists in a timeline you set solely for yourself.
- the timeline realistically recognizes all your other responsibilities.
- the challenge requires effort, whether physical or mental.
- the desired result requires you to work just beyond your current skill level.
It is not easy to tick all these boxes quickly and you may notice you can realistically only do one to three genuine challenges a year. Creating effortful challenges allows for reward to contribute to a lasting sensation of pleasure.
Notice the language you use to speak about yourself. Do you undermine your efforts or minimize your achievements? Do you defer compliments or gratitude? Do you blame yourself when things don’t work as planned? Learning to speak positively to yourself takes time, but by becoming aware of your own language, you can begin to create a safe mental space for yourself.
With daily practice, you can increase your capacity for pleasure.
Dr. Thara Vayali is a Vancouver-based naturopathic doctor and yoga teacher, UBC alum and popular guest contributor to our Healthy UBC newsletter who specializes in intestinal and immune health, hormones, and pain-free bodies. For more information about Thara, visit www.tharavayali.ca.
Photo: Sean McGrath (Flickr)
By Miranda Massie on October 6, 2015
As the days grow shorter and we start to bundle up against the cold, I have noticed that we also have a tendency to hibernate. Although this is a necessary annual practice for some of our relatives in the animal kingdom, it has the potential to be detrimental to us humans.
We are social beings, and as such, crave connection and support, both of which can wane as we recede into the warmth of our homes and huddle inside awaiting winter. I am the first to admit that I am guilty of this practice. There is something about coming home when it’s already dark outside that makes me yearn for my couch and reach for my sweatpants. I find myself less motivated to call up a friend or invite people over and after a few weeks, I end up feeling quite lonely and out of touch.
There is some great research out there to keep in mind this fall. I am hoping that it will serve as a reminder to reach out and that it will motivate me to stay more connected with others.
Five Fun Facts about Social Support
De-stress: Connecting with others and allowing for support during stressful situations can improve a person’s health and wellbeing.
Boost longevity: Emotional support from others positively influences physical health and longevity.
Be empowered: Individuals with meaningful connections to others are more likely to think in positive and empowering ways.
Protect yourself: Self-esteem and social support serve as protective factors against perceived life stressors.
Up your satisfaction: Self-esteem is associated with lower anxiety, depression and distress and higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.
This month, I invite you to be more aware of your emotions and behavior as the seasons change. Are you spending more time inside? Are you feeling disconnected? Are you craving a boost in your social network? Or perhaps you have not heard from a friend in a while.
There is nothing wrong with spending time alone but when this solo time begins to shift to loneliness, it may be time to re-connect and reach out.
All my best,
Chao, Ruth Chu-Lien. (2012) Managing Perceived Stress Among College Students: The Roles of Social Support and Dysfunctional Coping. Journal of College Counseling, 15:5-21.
Kawachi, Ichiro and Lisa Berkman. (2001) Social Ties and Mental Health. Journal of Urban Health: Bulletin of the New York Academy of Medicine, 78:458-467.
Steinhardt, Mary and Christyn Dolbier. (2008) Evaluation of a Resilience Intervention to Enhance Coping Strategies and Protective Factors and Decrease Symptomatology. Journal of American College Health, 56: 445-453.
Thoits, Peggy. (2011). Mechanisms Linking Social tied and Support to Physical and Mental Health. Journal of Health and Social Behaviour, 52:145-161.