How to cultivate pleasuretaking in your life

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Food is such an immediate pleasure. This month, let’s take the pressure off food and explore other ways to meet our desires and enjoy living

A woman in a happy peaceful pose

We are made as pleasure-seeking beings. Yey! Laura Lloyd 2016

1.Paradigm-shift your pleasure. Think about how pleasure was presented to you as a child, and the rolemodels in your life. Can you think of people you know who just look like they are really enjoying their lives? How would it feel to be them?

Many of us, especially if we’ve been hating on ourselves and on our bodies, feel undeserving.

Many of us see pleasure as something we have to carbon offset with guilt, or earn with hard work or acts of service to other people.

Take a deep breath and acknowledge that these things are bollocks. You have the capacity to enjoy, to sense, to taste, and you should do so. Food is supposed to be a pleasure. So is life.

I love the spiritual idea that you are fulfilling your purpose in life when you’re in your personal bliss: you’re expressing your unique talent for enjoying a certain something. If anyone were put there for it, it were you!

For example, the universe made me for bodyboarding. I’m pretty sure most people don’t feel like I do about bodyboarding: I am like a wet puppy that has to chase and chase and chase. It would be an insult to the universe if I didn’t try to be the one to fulfil bodyboarding’s pleasure potential. I’m receiving the universe’s abundant miracles when I’m enjoying my things.

2. See ‘relaxation’ as pleasure. Are you getting all your pleasure from achieving? Ticking things off? Being brilliant? Going at it? Impressing people? Earning?

Would you be a lesser person if you didn’t do all that? What would people think of you? What would you think of yourself?

Do you have to prove you’re not lazy? Are you ambitious? Do you need to be famous? Promoted?

Well, how about just being you, and being OK with that. How about being relaxed? That means, not putting ‘doing’ before ‘being’.

3. Identify what really brings you deep pleasure in life. Divide a journal page down the middle for two lists. On the left, list the times you’ve been most pleasured in your life. Now in the list on the right, list what you were experiencing when you were truly enjoying yourself. For example, I might list on the left ‘laughing uncontrollably with my housemates at University’, but on the right, I’d write ‘loss of inhibitions/belonging’.

Your list on the right are your clues about what you’d like to experience more of in your life. How can you aim for those experiences? What do the smallest everyday versions of those experiences look like? For example, I experience ‘belonging’ when I get into bed and my husband has already put a hotwaterbottle to wait for me; I also experience it when I go to my usual cafe and the waiter greets me as if he knows me a little. Now, when I encounter ‘belonging’, I’m sure to take it in and savour it, because I know I was put on earth to find joy in that.

That’s right. You just took a big step in identifying your life purpose.

4. Awaken your sensuality. Can you let the sun on your skin? Can you sit in the street and just listen? Can you go and float in water? Crank up the music and dance?

5. Go deeper into your sexuality. Light up your Shakti. How do you turn yourself on? Honour that juicy part of you by doing so.

6. Spend some energy relaxing. Give it some beans this month, guys, don’t wait for it to come and get you (you’ll end up falling asleep over the TV listings). Fact is, many of us don’t experience much relaxation: we’re too tired to. That’s right, you need energy to relax! Otherwise there’s just busying, and passing out.

Where are the moments when you restock your well? Do you read novels at bedtime? Do you take a lunch break (I hope you do!) Do you meditate or do yoga? Do you get given a massage? Do you sit on your balcony and watch the clouds?

Notice when you’re squandering your relaxation time on ‘numbing out’ activities, like randomly surfing the internet, watching trashy TV, or browsing in clothes shops. Is that really deep pleasure for you, or is it failing to really reach your guts? Maybe it’s time to be less passive about your relaxation.

7. Plan your day more pleasurably. When do you take your time about doing things? Notice how you’re squeezing out all the buffer time in your day, rushing from one thing to the next. You need that breathing space to relax. Don’t book back-to-back meetings. Live the transitions.

8. See relaxation, not as a luxury, but as a mental health necessity. You need relaxation to digest your life experience. When did you last truly relax? Have you been keeping yourself going since a life event that you needed to move on from? Work is fantastically anaesthetic – until you burn out. As you start to relax, you might notice what comes up for you. Don’t argue with your mind, just acknowledge stuff: it’ll pass on its own, like the weather changing.

9. Relax by being absorbed. Sometimes, if you aren’t a good do-nothinger (I’m terrible), then certain activities can switch you into another part of your brain. Literally. Or they can occupy your thought channels and switch your gear. For me, drawing does that: I get so absorbed, I stop thinking for a bit, and it resets me. I recommend it. Driving also does that for me.

What does that for you? Knitting? Swimming? Ironing? Gardening? Sorting out your stationary drawer? Pottering (so underrated)?

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How are you coping with this strenuous challenge, guys? Take a leisurely stroll to the comment thread below.