Healthy pleasures have two characteristics:
- Balance. Pleasures lose their meaning if they are not counterbalanced by attending to life’s other responsibilities. Fun can happen when one takes a break from the normal routine. For example, eating delicious food, even “unhealthy” food, can be a healthy pleasure if it is done in moderation and on occasion. To base one’s entire diet on rich and calorie-laden foods, however, suggests possible addictive tendencies – and addictive behaviors fall outside of the realm of healthy pleasures. Addictions are self-destructive, while the aim of engaging in healthy pleasures is to enhance the diversity and enjoyment of life’s experiences.
- The Experience of the Moment. People who worry a lot, who are depressed, or who have difficulty with trust may find it hard to abandon themselves to pleasure. They may need to develop the ability to let go of worry and outside concerns in favor of immersing themselves in the moment. This is a skill that can be learned.
Here are some suggestions for engaging in healthy pleasures, although this list is by no means complete. All of these sources of pleasure have been shown to result in benefits to our health.
- Indulge in chocolate or a scrumptious meal from time to time.
- Did you know that moderate consumers of alcohol (one or two drinks per day) live longer and have healthier hearts than heavy drinkers (which is not surprising) and total abstainers (which is perhaps a surprise)?
- Go on a shopping spree on occasion (as long as you can afford it and don’t fall into compulsive shopping).
- Take a day off from work just to indulge yourself in whatever you want to do.
- Laugh whenever you can and surround yourself with people who like to laugh.
- When you need a good cry, indulge in one – this is one of life’s great pleasures.
- Take a sauna or a steam bath (if your blood pressure is fairly normal).
- Go out into nature and spend some time alone. Treat yourself to a view of water, mountains, or natural vegetation.
- Spend an hour listening to your favorite music – with no other distractions.
- Expose yourself to different smells and notice how they affect your mood.
- Give a close friend or your partner a massage, and then take your turn. Foot massages are wonderful.
- Take a half-hour walk outside – breathe fully, move your body vigorously, and think about little else.
- Have you ever danced alone in your living room when nobody else is around?
- Gardening is one of life’s greatest pleasures – immerse yourself in growth and beauty.
- Spend a couple of hours playing cards or board games with a close friend.
- On a stressed out day, take a half hour nap.
- Buy or pick a bouquet of flowers and put them in a prominent place in your living area.
- Learn a craft – pottery, painting, furniture refinishing, sculpture, holiday gifts, etc.
- Learn from the masters – children and pets. Play with a child or an animal … at their level, not yours.
- Go to a movie, a play, a concert, or the opera.
- Do some volunteer work in the community.