5 Simple Pathways to Pleasure

"An electrode was implanted in the pleasure center of a monkey's brain. Pushing a button on a small control box delivered an electric pulse to the electrode, giving the monkey a tremendous jolt of sheer, whole-body pleasure... It didn't take many more repetitions for the monkey to catch on to the connection between the button and the pleasure... If they hadn't eventually taken the box away, the monkey would have sat there and literally pleasured itself to death...” - excerpt from "The Story of B" by Daniel Quinn

Remind you of anyone you know?

Hooked on the Pleasure Button

Over 80 percent of the diseases we suffer in America are preventable. As a culture, we work too hard, sleep too little, don’t move enough and keep ourselves running on overdrive. We are addicted to the adrenaline rush we get from sugar, processed foods and caffeine.

Stimulants, sedatives, pain killers, prescription meds, anti-depressants, flavor enhancers, neurotoxins and a steady stream of processed foods pump into our bloodstreams. They sustain the modern pace of living. How long could we handle this lifestyle without all our pleasure buttons?

Brave New World: Your Body Is a Taste Bud

Our bodies are encased within a complex tapestry: the nervous system. It is our interface with the world, and an endless source of pleasure (or pain). The nervous system feeds us information constantly, about our own well-being, the intentions of others and our surroundings. We can feel positive sensations just as strongly as negatives ones. If you find you feel more pain than pleasure, that just means it’s time to re-boot your nervous system.

Our bodies are complex bundles of nerves and receptors. To limit the complex world of sensory pleasure to the small area the size of your tongue is to cheat yourself the joy of being fully alive.

Real vs. Synthesized Pleasure

The next time you need to recover from stress, ask yourself: Is the source of pleasure you're about to reach for real pleasure, or a cheap substitute? Is it an exploration of how great you can feel, or an embarrassing relapse that leaves crumbs behind?

Compare the brief high of a sugar buzz to the extended euphoria of a runner’s high. Compare a McFoodComa to the inner peace you feel after an hour of yoga… As far as the nervous system is concerned, extended pleasure wins, hands-down.

5 Simple Pathways to Pleasure

We all crave some type of indulgent sensory stimulation to counteract stress. If you find yourself turning to food too often, chances are you need to feed your other senses first.

There are countless means to experience more pleasure. Here are five simple ways to treat yourself daily, without reaching for food:

1. Move Your Body: Your body was designed to move. When you exercise in a way that feels good to you, your body releases mood-boosting neurotransmitters that flood your pleasure centers. Pick a type of movement that feels so good, and do it often. Your body will learn to crave it when you’re stressed.

2. Welcome Home Stretch: A great way to start Part II of your day when you get home from work. Take a short pause to imagine you’re on vacation. Turn ringers off and use the first few minutes you’re home to stretch the work day out of your body. (Ask a massage therapist or yoga teacher to show you some simple stretches, if you're unsure of what to do.)

3. Welcome Home Foot Massage: Best way to quickly feel grounded in your body. Even if you don’t know reflexology, take advantage of all the reflex points on the bottoms of your feet. They’re rich in nerve endings that affect your whole body. Taking just two minutes to lather up and rub each foot can make your whole body relax.

4. Eat Healthy Fats: You won’t feel too deprived for Doritos if you’re getting your RDA for healthy fats. Skip the fat-free chips and try snacking on good fat: nuts and seeds, coconut oil, avocado and fatty fish are all great sources. These healthy fats optimize nerve function and enhance your ability to feel pleasure—they can even enhance sexual function.

5. Constructive Rest: Despite the “lazy American” stereotype, many of our junk food addicts are over-achievers. Driven, disciplined and responsible for others, they tend to put themselves last. If that sounds like you, set a timer and do nothing 15 minutes a day. Laziness, in moderation, is good for the soul.

Small segments of time (even 10-15 min) dedicated to resting, recharging and feeling good are necessary. They enhance immune function, boost moods, balance hormones and improve creativity via stress reduction. Even if you don’t have time for a full yoga class, that doesn’t mean you don’t have time to practice yoga! If it’s important, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.

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