The importance of pleasure (Why it matters)

Importance of pleasurable activities

How many times do we hear the words ‘it’s all about balance’.  ‘Balance is key’. ‘All things in moderation’.  Etc etc.?

pleasure and enjoyment

In fact, if we look at the definition of ‘balance’ we see that it’s ‘a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions’.

Broadly speaking we may find that our lives are split into different areas: Self care, achievement, connecting with others and enjoyment.  Whilst Self care includes exercise, healthy eating, rest, sleep and treating illness; Achievement can include work, chores and study.  Humans are, in general, social animals; we like to be surrounded by friends and share our personal experiences with others.  But the bit that sometimes gets forgotten: enjoyment.  Time to think about the activities that are fun, give pleasure and may be playful.

fun and play

If you were to take an overview of your life just now, would it be ‘in balance’?  Are you doing all the things that you wish to do as well as the things that you ‘need’ to do?  So often when we feel depleted the fun stuff gets forgotten; work and responsibilities seem to take priority.  We sacrifice social contact and enjoyment for the salary and the payslip in an effort to ‘conserve energy’.  But what if we undertook the fun stuff; we spent time with people who make us feel great and occasionally we find the funny side and have a good old belly laugh?  What if this actually made us feel ‘energised’?  What if the activities that we initially felt were unimportant, suddenly became most important to our recovery and wellbeing?  Could we make space for these pleasurable activities?  Maybe they should become a priority.  Maybe they should come higher on the ‘to do’ list.

play and pleasure

Laughter can combat stress, pain, and depression by reducing cortisol levels and releasing the ‘feel-good’ hormone; endorphins. Endorphins also help you relax and improve your overall sense of well-being. Laughter boosts immunity and cardiovascular health and helps control blood pressure. While laughter may not be a miracle drug, its therapeutic properties are undoubtedly being endorsed by physicians and scientists alike.  As research unravels more of the therapeutic effects of laughter, we can vouch for one thing; here is one therapy that has no side effects and costs nothing!  What made you snigger today?

A number of studies suggest that playing games or doing puzzles helps maintain memory and thinking skills. Other benefits of playing for adults can include increased creativity, productivity, and feelings of well-being. Activities that you may not have considered before or perhaps just thought may be too ‘childish’ could include: Jigsaw puzzles, colouring books for adults (colouring is an absorbing and relaxing activity), Play-Doh  (there’s even play-doh for adults now – who’d have thought!) and LEGO.  As an adult, you have every right to enjoy yourself. In fact, adults need play.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing. 
— George Bernard Shaw

Often just taking time to be with your experience in any given moment and to notice what’s present around you, especially now that spring is bursting forth, can feel pleasureable. Often noticing beauty-even just for an undistracted moment- can bring us pleasure. If we are receptive to our sense experiences we can soon discover that beauty- and thereby moments of pleasure- surround us.

So ask yourself; ‘what have I got to look forward to today?’  Is there a great long list of things you ‘should’ do or ‘must’ do or could you imagine doing something different?  Can you make space for a pleasurable activity and time for enjoyment?  Notice the benefit if you do.  Does the floor really need to be hoovered again or could you make time to enjoy a cup of coffee whilst watching the birds in the garden, or phone a friend you haven’t spoken to for ages?  How do you start to re-claim the balance in your life?.....

For more information about our rehabilitation prgrammes where our specialist clinicians specifically look at balancing acitivity, rest and sleep and the role of pleasure (however small and seemingly mundane) as it is for each individual according to their symptoms and circumstances click here

beauty and pleasure
Katherine Sewell