Access Your Pleasure Centers
You can tap into the pleasure centers of your brain through your imagination … and this can be done without any external aids like alcohol or drugs. This simple exercise can be done by anybody and at any time of the day. If you have difficulty with this exercise, a therapy consultation can help you learn how to do it appropriately and at your own pace.
Find a quiet spot with no distractions. Close your eyes and breathe slowly ten times. With every breath, imagine your body becoming more and more relaxed. Imagine that every inhalation bathes you in relaxation and every exhalation releases the tension you have stored up in your body. After ten breaths imagine yourself in a beautiful, tranquil, and pleasurable place, probably a place you have actually been to before. Focus only on the experience of this place. If other thoughts intrude, just let them go. Be totally in this place for the moment. Now tell yourself that you are feeling pleasure. Become aware of the warm and vibrant feeling that accompanies pleasure. Increase the intensity of this feeling and then let it come down again. When you have spent a few minutes in this imaginary place, open your eyes and resume your normal business of the day. You may notice that you have a smile on your face – and that others do too.
Learning to Bring Pleasure Into Your Life – An Exercise
Many of us set aside little time in our lives for pleasure. We use the excuse that we simply don’t have the time to have a good time. In fact, we take more than just a touch of pride in letting others know how busy we are – this is a way of telling people that we are productive and vital. Unfortunately, a life that is always busy is also a stressed out life.
This exercise consists of two parts. First, make a list of all of your activities in a typical day and note how much time you spend on each activity. This allows you to see how you spend your days. What you learn may come as a surprise. Now go through the list and find a way to cut half an hour per day out of your normal routine.
Second, spend half an hour per day in an activity that brings you pleasure. There are a couple of rules to follow in coming up with ways to have fun.
1) Be sure that you do this pleasure exercise alone. The idea is not to depend on someone else for your pleasure, but to rediscover your own sense of play. Look within yourself and find those activities that nurture your own inner nature.
2) And make sure that the activities you choose are different everyday. This is an exercise in self-discovery, and you might find that there are ways to have fun that you have never considered before. The idea is to lighten up, relax, lose yourself in pleasure, and activate the pleasure centers in your brain. This is the perfect antidote to the routinized and stressful existence that many of us live these days.
So, go ahead. Enjoy a banana split. Try on a cashmere sweater. Take a walk. Look at a view. Play the drums along with music. Read a short story. Sketch a self-portrait. Take a bubble bath.
Be creative in the ways you find pleasure. Try to find ways of having fun that are close to home. You don’t necessarily want to have to drive somewhere or take out too much time from your daily routine to do this (or else it just becomes another task and may serve to increase stress!). And as you engage in the activity, tell yourself that this is pleasurable. Allow yourself to feel self-nurtured, free, and lost in the moment. Let yourself feel like a child again.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.