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 May 3, 2018
Sexual and reproductive health are key components of our overall wellbeing, and yet we often consider them as unimportant or embarrassing. Social stigma and lack of education can get in the way of early, appropriate, and non-judgmental access to critical health care and accurate information.
To welcome in the start of spring, and to accompany the inevitable innuendos about ‘the birds and the bees’, I‘m offering up a quick guide for how to “heart your parts”.
Re-imagining the mind as a sexual organ
Sexuality is often considered as being exclusively physical, and yet it has fundamental connections to our mental health. Our thoughts, feelings and emotions linked to gender, sexuality and sexual health can impact our mental wellbeing in both positive and negative ways. The state of our mental health (positive, challenges, illness or diagnosis) can also affect our ability to lead the sexual lives we want.
Recent UBC research has shown the positive impact of regular mindfulness practice on sexual pleasure. The sexual response “really requires this back-and-forth communication between the brain and the body” says Dr. Lori Brotto in a recent article on research linking mindfulness to increased sexual satisfaction.
- Learn more about the connections between mental health and sexual health courtesy of Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights.
Reproductive health regardless of reproduction
Regular checkups are an important part of sexual health maintenance. Even if you’re not sexually active, or planning on conceiving, that doesn’t mean you’re not at risk of certain health problems relating to your reproductive systems.
Often, seeking medical advice on the subject can be intimidating, but there are many resources available to you:
- Find a list of sex-positive sexual health service providers (province-wide).
- Read more about common reproductive system health concerns, including signs and symptoms. Note: Please enter “University of British Columbia” as your organization.
Consent is for everyone
In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye: “Don’t you know how sweet and wonderful life can be? I’m askin’ you, baby, to get it on with me.” He was both ahead of his time in role modeling sexual consent and in creating space for conversations about pleasure (self or partnered – it’s your prerogative). Consent is not something that disappears when we graduate, get married or are in a situation where we have previously consented. Consent is a constant conversation that requires communication, openness and active listening.
- Remember: Consent must be freely given and can be withdrawn at any time.
This month, regardless of what kind of parts you’re working with, I invite you to show them some love.
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Photo Credit: Sean McGrath (Flickr)