There is no need to ask for luxuries and costly pleasures. Simple pleasures will also do. They have the same or a higher positive impact on health and happiness. Learning how to create joyful experiences will bring great health benefits.
For those leading a sedentary lifestyle, it is never too soon and never too late to begin to move, to become more active. Walking, hiking, running, biking, swimming, and many other activities have great physical and emotional benefits. These activities produce even greater benefits when they are performed with pleasure, and not in a mechanical way out of a sense of duty. Exercising in a gym is usually good for you but climbing to the top of a hill near home and enjoying the sunrise or sunset is better for you emotionally and physically.
Movement-whether through exercise at home or in the gym or hiking in the woods-increases vitality, enhances endurance, strengthens the heart, and produces many other beneficial results. In addition, movement reduces stress, helps fight allergy symptoms, decreases appetite, helps counteract anxiety and depression, controls blood sugar and helps the body in its struggle against many other common ailments and conditions.
Movement helps to increase a person's sense of optimism and hopefulness, self-confidence and self-image. In addition, movement increases the sexual drive and the enjoyment of sex. Many factors play a role here, such as the increased endorphin levels. All healthy movement increases vitality and the joy of living.
The healing power of humor has been recognized around the world. Humor has a powerful impact on pain. Laughter has been demonstrated to relieve pain almost immediately and the pain relief may continue for hours after the laughter has subsided. This has been of great benefit to people who suffer from chronic pain from a wide range of causes. Research shows that laughter also strengthens the immune function, helps relieve tension, fights stress, minimizes panic attacks, defuses anger, counteracts depression and anxiety, and has an overall positive effect on wellness and health.
There are many ways in which humor and laughter increase the pleasure of being alive and how to use laughter to experience a more joyful life. Humor helps bring perspective to a person's life and perspective brings a sense of balance that is essential to good physical and emotional health.
It has a powerful effect on humans, from infancy onward. Touch is critical to the newborn, infants and children. Babies who are held regularly-even if only by a neutral party-grow faster and are healthier than those who are not touched frequently. There is startling evidence that even people who are in a coma respond positively to being touched.
Deep emotions are expressed silently through touching. There is great pleasure in certain forms of touching and great solace in others. Touching also helps relieve physical pain and emotional distress. From ancient religious and medical traditions the world over, we have learned of the healing power of touch.
Massage is another form of touch that promotes healing and wellness. It relieves from stress, headaches, chronic pain, emotional worries and other problems of modern living. Healing touch restores the flow of energy in the body and brings on soothing pleasurable sensations.
Touch improves the circulation and lymphatic function; helps fight fatigue; and enhances the body's immune system. A cascade of the body's pleasure chemicals is stimulated by simply touching. In addition to the healing and health-promoting aspects of touch, the pure sensuality of loving touch between partners is essential to a fulfilling life. Loving touch deepens intimacy and heightens sexual gratification profoundly.
The message we get across cultures reflects the power and primacy of love. Love is essential to happiness and health. Studies show consistently that loving people are healthier overall, experience less illness in life and live longer. They have stronger immune systems and experience less heart disease, stress, chronic pain, and other conditions.
Loving people also experience a more intense sexual life. This is due in part to their better state of health but also because loving people are better able to give and receive pleasure. In general, they are more in touch with their emotions and more aware of the emotions of their partners. Loving people are frequently more physically active and physical activity has been shown to improve one's sex life greatly.
Sex is a crucial part of loving and pleasure in life. But a healthy sex life has additional benefits beyond the pleasure of the moment. A good sex life improves self-confidence, reduces stress, brings pain relief to those with chronic pain, fights insomnia and promotes an optimistic, hopeful sense of well-being. Studies demonstrate the healing powers of the pleasures and passions of love, from first falling in love, through growing physical delight, to a deepening intimacy between partners. There is evidence that love increases creativity, sharpens the intellect, enhances intuition and makes life worth living. In a life guided by pleasure, the healing force we call love is the foundation.
Becoming attuned to one's senses-and ordering and shaping one's life to please those senses-is integral to savoring the pleasures of being alive. Colors, textures, sounds, fragrances and flavors all combine to create the world we inhabit. And we can use them to shape a wonderfully aesthetic world that enhances the pleasures of life.
An aesthetic life is not something rarefied or available only to the wealthy or the privileged. It is there for all who have the imagination. A life without aesthetics is truly an anesthetized life, one in which pleasure is muted by a powerful anesthesia. Imagination is a powerful tool that can be used to create opportunities to develop the senses to the fullest. The small pleasures of daily life can add up to great joy.
It is obvious to all that a meal served with attention to aesthetics and eaten in a pleasing environment is enjoyed more on a subjective level than the same meal served under less appealing circumstances.
The pleasurable environment surrounding a meal has objective benefits as well as subjective ones. For example, the body absorbs more nutrients when the meal is served in pleasurable surroundings than when the same foods are eaten in a neutral or unpleasant environment.
Anyone can have fun and learn to create “pleasure recipes” that feature a great variety of different colors, aromas, flavors, and textures. The psychology of eating is also a critical element. Foods must be enjoyed to be nutritious. And to be enjoyed, foods must be in harmony with each individual's personal and culturally acquired tastes.
A meal offers a simple example of how to practice because all of the senses come into play. Touch is involved in the selection and preparation of the food. Vision is involved in the preparation of the setting and the presentation of the meal. Candles and lowered lights greatly increase the enjoyment and satisfaction of a meal. The sense of smell, the most primitive and powerful of the senses, is essential to a full enjoyment of the meal. Hearing comes into play in the selection of music that can be used to enhance a meal
Abundance, Not Deprivation.
The experience of pleasure usually creates a new way of looking at life, one that can be summed up in the phrase, Abundance, Not Deprivation. Deprivation is an ineffective method of reaching health and happiness. It simply does not work for most people. This is clearly obvious in the failure of the majority of diets. Most diets are presented in the negative: avoid this food, don't eat that food. In these cases, eating becomes a form of punishment. Most people can eat anything they want and still be healthy. Eating becomes a pleasure and reward in and of itself.
When guided by pleasure, a positive approach is taken. Rather than focusing on abstinence and deprivation, people emphasize satisfaction and fulfillment. With a “pleasure program,” every activity is an opportunity to experience joy and delight. And pleasure pays off.
So what's the problem? If pleasure is such a valuable guide to living, why are not more people living that way?
The modern hostility to pleasure
In our allegedly hedonistic society, far more people are preoccupied with pain than with pleasure. Of course, pain relief and pain control are important subjects. However, only quite a few look closer at pleasure and the role of it in life. In the same line, to date, hardly anyone has endeavored to present to the general public guidelines based on the scientifically-proven premise that pleasure promotes health and happiness. The public is aware of the importance of pleasure in life, though in an unclear way. In general, people have lost their "first sense" for living and cannot seem to find their way to a gratifying life.
Unfortunately, our society is characterized by a denial and fear of pleasure. And many of our so-called pleasures-smoking, excessive drinking, and over-indulgence in foods and desserts-are not really pleasures at all. They are, in fact, pseudo-pleasures, that is, substitutes for the true pleasures in life: making love, intimacy and sharing, creating, moving, learning, laughing-in other words, living. And because pseudo-pleasures do not satisfy truly, they are over-indulged in.
Pleasure has always played a critical role in human life-in love, sex, work and play. Unfortunately, modern life was shaped by the anti-pleasure philosophy. This hostility to pleasure was reinforced with the rise of the work ethic and the mercenary spirit of capitalism. However, there has been increasing appreciation among many people of the critical role pleasure plays in physical and emotional health, creativity, happiness in life, vitality and longevity.
Sadly, most of us harbor within a “hidden saboteur” that resists pleasure in life. This behavior is usually unconscious and difficult to overcome. In many ways, we are all subtly influenced, and sometimes even consciously trained, to resist pleasure. This is done by parents, medical professionals, educators, religious leaders and other authority figures. Over time, a large number of people become unable even to feel pleasure. It is a great challenge, but within our reach, to unlearn the anti-pleasure messages we have received
But how do we learn to move toward pleasure, rather than only away from pain; to embrace healthy pleasures rather than struggle to control “bad” habits? Ineffective coping mechanisms such as smoking, over-eating or excessive drinking or drug use can be replaced with natural pleasures. The relish for life that natural pleasures engender provides the motivation and vitality needed to live a life informed by joie de vivre.
The idea that pleasure can be our innate guide to good health involves no exaggeration or stretch of the imagination. This concept is based on scientific facts and will stand up to the strictest scrutiny. The exhortation to learn what pleasure is and how to incorporate it into our lives is an ebullient call to return to good health and happiness.
Following the path of natural pleasure works because it leads people to find pleasure in all aspects of life. The big question is how do you make pleasure the foundation of a happy and healthy life? To accomplish this, you need to know yourself, know your body and understand what are the obstacles in the way to living a pleasurable life.
Life seeks out pleasure. Pleasure involves reaching out to the world. A pleasurable life is robust, challenging, happy, flowing and healthy. Our own biology will lead us to health-promoting pleasurable activities if we pay attention to what our senses and emotions are telling us. The healthiest people are pleasure-loving, pleasure-seeking and, most importantly, pleasure-creating people.
When all the senses are in play, we can fully relish everything that Life offers us. Pleasure as a guide to healthy living does not imply a "one size fits all" prescription or approach to life. Healthy, pleasure-creating people don't follow fads, formulas or other people's prescriptions for living. They create their own lives. For such people, pleasure is a guide to rediscovering that unbridled enthusiasm within and using it to create a rich, rewarding life at home, at work, at play, in school and in intimate relationships.
We are built for pleasure. Pleasure boosts the immune system, strengthens the heart, helps ward off depression and anxiety, and provides many more benefits to physical and mental health. In a society in which most of us do not receive even our “Minimum Daily Requirement” of pleasure, is it of no surprise that few of us live a happy and healthy life?
When pleasure is the guide, the whole person is taken into account. There is as much emphasis placed on how a person feels about what he or she is doing as on what the person is doing. Basically, any activity must be pleasurable to achieve maximum effect.
There is a continuum of pleasure in life that involves all the senses and all the systems of the body. From the pleasure that results from the relief of pain, through the wide variety of emotional and physical pleasures life offers, to the intense pleasures of sexual love, health entails incorporating the full spectrum of pleasure into one's life. By adding natural pleasures to daily life, each person can fulfill his or her pleasure potential.
Those who allow pleasure to be their guide experience excitement, enthusiasm and inspiration. They find that repeated exposure to pleasure softens their hard edges, makes them more resilient, flexible, generous, altruistic and empathetic. Many daily activities enhance pleasure in life.
Pleasure is the key to health and a pleasurable life is achievable by all of us. Exploration, discovery, adventure, variety and excitement are basics in a life guided by pleasure. They are all part of feeling alive and satisfied. Each person needs gratification in life to be healthy. And, when we are gratified, we also tend to be more empathetic, loving and caring. Pleasure opens people to a world of delights and human relationships they may not even yet have dreamed of. Once they experience what this new world has to offer, they will want to keep coming back for more.
Pyrrhus of Epirus (died 272 B.C.), was a king with a lust for conquest. He set out from his little state of Epirus, Greece, to conquer the world. As was the style at the time he took not only warriors with him but cultivated men to discourse with. One of these men was Cyneas, a wise man who occasion to speak of Epicurus and his philosophy, which places chief happiness of man in pleasure and declining public affairs as a disturbance of a happy life.
Plutarch in his Life of Pyrrhus* records one of the conversations between Pyrrhus and Cyneas:
Philosphic inquiry took two distinct approaches in searching truth. The first one recognized the precedence of nature and the second of logic.The natural approach took the lead in the course of time through Thales and later with Democritus, but it suffered a recession by the revolutionary teaching of Socrates, Plato and partly of Aristotle, who gave precedence to logic and its ideas. Soon though the theory of Platonic ideas was abandoned and the tradition of Ionian science of Thales was reviving supported by Epicurus and Aristotle who in the later part of his life turned to the study of biology.
This historic evolution of philosophical thought had the immediate effect to create a competition between Nature and Reason for the command of philosophic attention. Epicurus the last of the eminent philosophers of antiquity denied the existence of Platonic ideas on the ground that the only existences were atoms and empty space. Thus to his thinking man stood face to face with physical reality primarily through his senses and secondary through his logic. For if we assume that a human being has been deprived of all his five senses, this is tantamount to death and the person has ceased to be a rational creature; the possession of sensation (and additionally of feeling and anticipation) seems to be construed as antecedent to rational activity.