A professional colleague & friend suggested I read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘Flow – The classic work on how to achieve happiness.’ I’m not that far in it yet, as it is quite a thought provoking book. So this week’s blog is about the difference of pleasure and enjoyment and which one you would rather, in your pursuit of happiness. A life absent of enjoyment does not mean that aspects can’t be pleasurable. There are two main ways to improve life – change the external environment to match our goals (such as buying stuff), and to change how we view the external environment (our car is just a means of getting from A to B). No one strategy will work, both in varying degrees are necessary. Unfortunately, most people continue the myth of bigger, better & more stuff as a means to improve life through only the former method. Reaching middle age often leads to a sudden realisation of the importance of a balance of these two strategies and the difference of pleasure and enjoyment.
Getting people to define what they mean by enjoyment often means they express an event in such a way that has fulfilled some degree of accomplishment or a first. I remember some wise words given to my wife and I before we got married, ‘always carry on courting.’ I have always remembered these words as I have endeavoured to keep our relationship fresh over these last 30+ years.
This week I have experienced pleasure numerous times but enjoyment has been more elusive until this weekend. However, as I’m reflecting on the week as I write this and recalling some moments from my gratitude log, it is apparent that one can soon forget positive events.
So from my past experience, it seems that anxiety inhibits enjoyment but has little impact on pleasure. In fact, striving for more and more pleasurable interludes results in dissatisfaction as we realise, eventually, that further material things are irrelevant to our happiness. As a further example, eating is pleasurable and more food eventually leads to obesity rather than happiness.
In times of anxiety, we lose our ability to enjoy life’s experiences. Pleasurable events are a poor and unfulfilling substitute which evaporate quickly. Our energy and inner mind’s eye is all the while, attempting to keep us safe.
Mindful eating regains the satisfaction one has with food as we deeply experience what we are consuming with all our senses in full flow, resulting in enjoyment. This is a skill that has to be learnt and practised. Pick a time this week when you’re about to eat something and have 15 minutes alone with yourself. Once ready to enjoy, spend a minute with some deep mindful breaths, then look at what you are about to eat as though you are a child who has just seen an apple for the first time. Spend a minute looking at the colour, the texture, the roundness. Take your time as though you will never see one again. Use your other senses – smell it, describe it out loud. Feel it – again describing to yourself. Finally, take a bite and again use all your senses. How did it feel to your lips? Your teeth & tongue? What did the crunch sound like? Roll it around your mouth savouring every moment. Now take another bite. Is it different? Describe it again? What does the apple with a bite out of it look like? Does it smell different? It is not important what you have chosen to mindfully eat but I find something with a crunch works well at stimulating all your senses. You can enjoy eating like this as you have invested time and your undivided attention in this short training lesson. Honing this simple skill with eating will enable you to transfer this skill to other experiences in life. Now try to imagine viewing/eating that same apple whilst driving in busy traffic. You’ll more than likely just find the apple core in the car & have no idea how you ate it
Now try to imagine viewing/eating that same apple whilst driving in busy traffic. You’ll more than likely just find the apple core in the car & have no idea how you ate it!
Spend some time every day with these thoughts in mind and continue to collect your moments of joy.
PS Weight 82kg