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Helena Önneby

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The pleasure principle – for a healthy life

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I first heard about the pleasure principle in a wedding speech. The speaker encouraged the couple to live by the pleasure principle in their relationship as a way of creating wellbeing and sustainability. The ability to create joy and pleasure as a health hack? Yes, it actually works!

The pleasure principle is about creating as much pleasure and joy as possible in our lives, because pain will come visit either way. Not to be confused with Freud’s more boring definition of the concept.

Since I first heard about this I’ve actively tried to live by it and since it’s summer, and some of us might have a little more time on our hands, I think it’s an excellent opportunity to practice.

For some reason, many of us have this conception that life is supposed to be difficult and hard work and we find it hard to allow ourselves to enjoy, goof off, and be at ease in life (read: Helena 10 years ago). But what if we’ve got this backward? What if it’s the other way around?

Your job is not to create pain and suffering for yourself by putting too high expectations, comparing, being mean to yourself or burying yourself in old conflicts. Your job is to enjoy, laugh and live in ease when you can, so that when life actually is difficult or hard, you’re so much better equipped to deal with it.

“The answer to exhaustion isn’t necessarily rest. It’s passion.”  – David Whyte

So how do we do it, live according to the pleasure principle, practically? The answer is of course individual since it’s about creating joy and pleasure for you. But here’s some examples from my own life:

– Take off your shoes and walk barefoot just because it’s nice

– Eat using the beautiful porcelain in the middle of the week

– Eat your favorite chocolate now, and really enjoy it

– Take a massage/ ask for a massage and be fully present in your body as you receive it

– Pause and smell and see the full beauty of a flower

– Do something creative; paint, build, sing, write, without any expectations of it being good

– Let the laughter bubble up and give it all the space it needs

– Take the time to really listen to someone else in a conversation

– Play, as you did as a child, whether you have any kids around or not

– Prepare your plate of food with love and respect

– Swim naked

– Put on a good song and dance as if no one’s watching

– Take a nap in the middle of the day

– Lay on the ground and look at the clouds moving

– Listen to beautiful music with full attention

What is pleasure to you? What would it mean in your life to live according to the pleasure principle? If you want a challenge, write your own pleasure list and decide to do at least three of those things each day. Notice how your perception of life changes.

I believe it’s important that we take responsibility for our own pleasure and joy, since it makes us stronger and happier. And when we’re strong and happy we have much more to give to the people around us. But it starts with you.

Go enjoy this summer!

This is a guest post. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

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