Recently, I’ve gotten a little swept up by stress and haven’t been the diligent pleasure seeker that I typically am. Work has been busy and business opportunities are presenting themselves left and right, which is beyond thrilling, but my intense focus on getting it done has been impacting my usual enjoyment of what I am experiencing and learning. My present-moment awareness has been slipping (along with my daily meditation practice), and I have been spending way too much time in my head.
I know that if I can still fall into the "All Work and No Play" trap after eight zillion years of therapy and a long journey toward a more conscious existence, then some of you probably do as well. I thought it would be helpful for us to carve out some time to reconnect with our joy and mindfulness by remembering how pleasure and stress impact the quality of our daily lives.
You’ve no doubt heard about cortisol -- the stress hormone often associated with weight gain around your midsection. (That’s reason enough for me to get on top of daily stress.) There are other hormones that ignite a stress response, but this is the one we hear most commonly in public conversation. On the feel-good flip side, there are a host of hormones to ignite our pleasure response, most notably oxytocin. Oxytocin is released through physical healing touch and emotional connection.
Let me share some words of wisdom from my pal and the mac mama of pleasure as power, Mama Gena.
“Pleasure is the fertilizer for your dreams and desires,” she says.
WOW! Doesn’t that just make you want to play hooky and hit the beach, or maybe rock a spontaneous make-out session with a special someone? (Or am I just projecting my pleasure fantasy onto you?)
Pleasure is a discipline, and you have to train your “pleasure muscle” to fire.
Whatever it is that brings you pleasure, it must be done on a regular basis. So how do you build the muscle of enjoyment? When you are feeling stressed, bring yourself back to joy and the present moment through a specific action. Go for a walk, take a bath, eat and savor your favorite meal, read People (again, revealing my own guilty pleasure ;-) ), watch Bravo... whatever activity you enjoy and lose yourself in.
Together, let’s challenge ourselves to release more oxytocin and less cortisol.
THE OXYTOCIN CHALLENGE
- Make a list of seven actions you can incorporate into your life to move pleasure from the bottom to the top of your to-do list. (It can be very simple. For example, there’s a new vegan bakery I’ve been eyeballing.)
- Commit to doing one thing from the list daily.
- Give yourself 10 minutes every morning to set the tone for your day. RPM (Rise Pee Meditate), as Davidji suggests.
- When you're feeling stressed, ask yourself, “What would make me feel good right now? What do I need to do?” Then do it!
- This week, do one thing that would bring you pleasure but that you fear. (A bright red lipstick? Booking your first speaking engagement?)
Need some help getting started? Here are a few proven oxytocin-releasing activities you can try:
- Hug someone.
- Have an orgasm.
- Be a friend.
- Donate money or time.
- Bond with a child or pet.
- Do something FUN. (Swing on a swing set. Eat an ice cream cone. Go swimming.)
Will you join me in setting the intention to have more fun, to see what shifts?
I hope you have an amazing time letting the oxytocin flow, and, as always, take care of you.
Love Love Love,
Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist known for her holistic approach, combining practical psychology, thought innovation, and harnessing the power of intention to create sustainable change. She has a unique ability to take complex theories and translate them into actionable steps you can implement into your daily life. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest.