Stress Solving Secret #6: Plan for Pleasure

This is the seventh segment of an eight-part article.

pleasure-prescription.jpgHere's a great stress reducing secret I learned from Paul Pearsall, author of The Pleasure Prescription: A New Way to Well-Being—a pleasurable experience does more good for your body than a stressful experience does harm.  That's great news!

What it means is that we don't have to avoid stress, we just have to find ways to make our lives more pleasurable.  The problem is that advertising and culture have convinced us that if we don't have certain things, we can't be happy.  So, basically we tell ourselves, I have no right to enjoy this pleasure if this and this and this aren't right in my life.  I know, I've been a workaholic myself.

Also, we have convinced ourselves that having fun, that is, experiencing pleasure costs a lot of money.  But how much money does it take to cuddle with someone or trade back rubs?  How much money does it take to take a walk in the park or get out in nature?  How much money is a warm, relaxing bath with some essential oils and a candle?  There are many pleasurable activities we can engage in that don't cost a lot of money.

Oh, but I might caution you that watching TV is not a very good stress reducer.  TV is designed to stimulate us, not relax us.  Yes, TV (and video games, too), kind of lull us into a trance-like state, but that's not the same as doing something that's actually physically pleasurable.  Engage your body and your senses, not just your mind.

The key here is that you need to plan for pleasure.  You can't make it a low priority on your "to do" list. You have to make time for recreating yourself a high priority.  It makes you more effective with the rest of your time because your mind and body are sharper.

This is a relatively new tool for me, but I've been utilizing it to my advantage.  I get massages at least twice a month.  I've been doing gentle stretching exercises that relax my back and neck.  I love to soak in my hot tub or work in my garden when the weather permits.  In short, I've learned that by making time to do things I enjoy, it reduces my stress level and makes me a happier, healthier and more relaxed person.

The Pleasure Prescription

I'm not a doctor so I can't legally "prescribe" treatments for any disease conditon, but there is one prescription I give people quite regularly.  It's the "pleasure prescription." Here it is:

Make a list of 10 things that bring you physical pleasure and plan time to do at least one of these things every day.

I always recommend this practice to people with cancer and frequently to people with auto-immune disorders or other chronic ailments. One of the responses I often get to making the list is, "Like what?" This shows that people are often so busy that they've forgotten what things actually do bring them pleasure. So often I have to offer some suggestions, such as the following:

  • massage.gifTaking a warm bath or soaking in a hot tub
  • Engaging in crafts or hobbies that you enjoy
  • Getting a massage or footrub
  • Listening to positive and uplifting music
  • Engaging in a sporting activity you enjoy
  • Taking a walk (especially in nature)
  • Savoring a delicious treat (eat it very slowly!)
  • Sharing affection with your spouse or children

The second response I often get is, I don't have time for that. So, I have to explain, that this is saw sharpening time. Perhaps you've heard the story about the woodsman who kept working harder and harder but was getting less wood cut up. He wasn't taking the time to sharpen his saw. We need saw sharpening time in order to be effective at what we do.  Sometimes we get so busy doing things that we fail to take time to take care of ourselves. Taking this time for yourself makes you more effective in the other things you have to do.

Pleasure not only counteracts the effects of stress, it activates your immune system, improves your digestion and improves your mood. So, while we can't avoid stressful experiences, we can plan for pleasurable ones. That's a positive focus that will make a big difference.

Next: Stress Solving Secret #7: Serve Someone Less Fortunate Than Yourself