Sometimes solutions to complex health problems are so obvious they get overlooked.
I’ve been having some mood problems for a few months now. I wrote about it a while back in my blog post about raising serotonin. I’ve been trying to coach myself through this problem.
While I feel good physically and my digestion is great, I could be doing better emotionally. I feel extremely moody. And I suspect that most of has to do with stress. Running your own business is INTENSE! Especially for a highly sensitive person such myself. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done since healing IBS.
We know how bad stress is for health. It can trigger IBS episodes, destabilize blood sugar, burn out adrenals, compromise the immune system, cause pain, inflammation and fatigue and kill beneficial bacteria.
I’ve been trying to do all the “right things” to relieve my stress. Eating low sugar and grain-free, taking daily walks with the pup, giving up coffee, practicing chi gong and yoga nidra, taking fish oil and magnesium, eating fermented foods and feeding my creative outlet with my new recipe site.
All that self care kept me going without getting sick or depleted but I never managed to feel better.
Then one day, I stumbled on the solution by mistake. When I realized what the missing piece was, I had to share it with you. I am sure you know this stuff already. It’s intuitive. But sometimes we need a reminder (as well as permission) to do what’s best for us!
The healing power of pleasure
If people understood how beneficial and healing pleasure actually is, they’d allow themselves much more of it.
Instead we discount pleasure as guilty, luxurious or unimportant. Doing something we enjoy is often at the bottom of our to-do list. We might even prioritize it below stress-busting activities like meditation or yoga.
I think we have it all wrong. We see de-stressing as yet another time consuming activity. But we can melt that tension by simply doing something we truly enjoy.
Pleasure boosts the immune system, raises endorphins, lowers blood pressure, relaxes the heart and stimulates the parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous system, which allows the body to heal and do a better job of assimilating nutrients.
Pleasure is one of the best remedies for stress. Better even then rest, which allows the body to repair but doesn’t counter the negative effects of stress. Sometimes you can be too stressed to allow your body to properly rest.
The best part of pleasure…is…that it feels so good. It’s not a dreaded chore, it’s something you actually WANT to do. We’re hardwired for it.
Instead of doing something you think you should be doing to relieve your stress, do something you enjoy instead and see what happens.
Give yourself permission
What’s holding you back from experiencing pleasure in your life?
Even if you’re down, ther’re still things that can feel good. A massage, your favorite cup of tea, thinking of all the things you’re grateful for, playing with your children or pets, being in nature.
If you’re procrastinating should meditation, talk to a good friend instead, you’ll feel better.
There’s one catch. Sometimes pleasure masquerades as distraction or entertainment. Check in with your body. You know it’s pleasure when it makes you feel loose, light and melty.
And if someone judges you for doing something pleasurable, tell them your health coach recommended it.
What reminded me of the pleasure principle
I’ve been vacation deprived for the past few years. I’ve had a few staycations here and there but no real vacations.
I went to Miami to visit my parents recently and packed so much pleasure into 6 days.
There was a trip to the Russian bath house, a sushi dinner, beach time, a boat trip, a BBQ, a pedicure, massage and facial, pool time, warm weather, summer dresses, long walks and a trip to the ballet. And of course, catching up with family.
My typically overworked body was overloaded with pleasure.
When I got home I refused to fall back into my busy routine. So I did something practically blasphemous. Instead of working, I let myself rest. (That’s why this blog post got to you later than usual).
And because my body was already in a calm place, I was fully able to absorb that rest into every cell to rejuventate myself.
After that, I noticed that the things that used to stressed me out didn’t bother me anymore. I was no longer so reactive or oversensitive.
Being deficient in pleasure is like being deficient in a vitamin. That’s why pleasure is the best “supplement” for stress.
I know life can’t be a series of vacations. My vacation just reminded me to focus more on finding pleasure in everyday things.
If you want to do the same, write down a list of things that give you pleasure (it doesn’t have to be long.) Then write a list of what might prevent you from doing something pleasurable each day, (like lack of time, guilt, resistance, anxiety, feeling sick, etc).
Next, schedule some pleasurable activities into your calendar.
Naming your desires and challenges, will bring awareness to what you like to do and what’s stopping you. This awareness will put pleasure back on your radar. And scheduling will make sure you do it.
Here’s my sample list: spending time with my husband, dinner parties, watching movies, reading recipe blogs, dancing, making people laugh, massages, anything creative, picnics, grocery shopping (weird, I know), being around water, trying new things, deep conversations and comfy couches.
What prevents me from indulging is my to do list. I put productivity above pleasure. Bad health coach!
While it feels satisfying to cross things off my list, it doesn’t bring me real joy.
What Chi Gong taught me about pleasure
When new students come to chi gong class, they make a huge effort to do everything right. The irony is that trying hard contracts and tightens the body, which impedes energy flow.
In chi gong, striving will mess you up every time.
Our teacher calls this “efforting”. We’re all conditioned towards “efforting”, but sometimes working hard is counterintuitive.
The chi gong students who get it right away usually goof around, play and enjoy themselves.
Another reason for pleasure….having fun actually improves energy flow through the body. And better energy flow encourages better blood and lymph flow, which speeds healing!
I used the pleasure principle to switch back to the Paleo diet 9 months ago. I made it fun by being social (online group cleanses and meet ups) and trying loads of new recipes.
I know what you’re thinking….what if you find pleasure in eating foods that are bad for your gut?
How about finding pleasure in substitutes? Instead of regular ice cream, try coconut ice cream sweetened with banana. And if you’re extremely limited in what foods you can eat, find pleasure in healing yourself or non food related activities.
So what gives you pleasure? Tell me in the comments below.
Angela Privin is proof that IBS is NOT an incurable disease or a disease at all. IBS is a body out of balance. It’s an invitation for change. After solving her own IBS mystery more than a decade ago Angela trained as a health coach to help others.
Angela uses both science and intuition to help people figure out what’s out of balance in their body. She works with lab tests, dietary changes, supplementation and nervous system rebalancing. Get help rebalancing your digestive system and solving your IBS mystery here.