Reclaiming Pleasure-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Savor the Moment

Reclaiming pleasure Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I feel the warm air on my skin and taste the ripe watermelon as the juice drips off my chin, luxuriating in my senses. Author Leo Lionni’s mouse Frederick collects colors during the summer and fall to call upon during the long, dark winter months. Savoring pleasurable moments is an investment into your personal resilience account; withdraw as needed.

Having just returned from Mexico I am reminded of the importance of stepping away from our routines into spontaneity. When we let go of inhibitions we open ourselves to the magic of the unexpected like the moment I walked onto the sand under a full moon to discover a sea turtle laying her eggs. I sat on the beach for the next several hours in a state of awe, open to the gift the moment had to offer.

Praise for laughter, sunshine, and endless summer days.

“It is a human need to laugh, to feel awe, and to delight in our senses. This may require that we become selfish and cultivate opportunities in your life to experience pleasure. Say yes to that which truly nourishes and excites you. Your body and mind will thank you.”
-Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Redefining Selfish

Reclaiming pleasure Dr. Arielle Schwartz

The flowers in my garden are in full bloom right now. Unapologetically open to the world, unabashedly colorful. No one would ever criticize a blossom or a sunset for being too bright or taking up too much space. But how many times have you dulled your own brilliance for fear that people might judge you for being conceited or grandiose?

Have you internalized the belief that celebrating a good thing might make it go away? Does guilt interfere with your ability to feel joy? To be “selfish” has gotten a bad reputation especially when being selfish is a key that can unlock pleasure. Stephanie Vozza with Fast Company identifies 4 reasons why being selfish is good for you:

  • Selfish people are healthier—they tend to take better care of themselves.
  • Selfish people have better relationships—they have a well-developed sense of self, the ability to communicate, and uphold clear boundaries.
  • Selfish people make natural leaders—they have a drive to succeed, confidence, and motivation to reach for their goals.
  • Selfish people are happier—they spend their time doing pleasurable activities and are more authentic as a result.

It is time to reclaim your own capacity to bloom fully. You have permission to linger and luxuriate in the beauty of who you are. Express your creativity. Say yes to that which truly nourishes and delights you. Fill your cup. Share it with others when it feels right…but don’t give it all away. Fill your cup for you.

Go Ahead, Laugh

Reclaim Pleasure Dr. Arielle Schwartz

I love all forms of laughter; pee in my pants laughter, forbidden laughter in the lecture hall, tears streaming down my face laughter. I love spending time with people that crack me up and those that help me laugh when I take myself too seriously. Yes, laughter is another key that unlocks pleasure.

Laughter is good for us. Psychologist, Robert Provine from the University of Maryland, studied 1,200 episodes of laughter revealing that laughter reduces stress, reduces pain by releasing endorphins, fosters a healthy immune system, helps us learning, and fosters empathy. Laughter is said to synchronize our brains. In his book, Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman writes “In a neurological sense, laughing represents the shortest distance between two people because it instantly interlocks limbic systems.”

Explosions of spontaneous laughter often occur when we open ourselves to the element of surprise. Like the game of peek-a-boo with a child, bursts of authentic delight occur as we play with the timing and shift expectations. Taking a close look at the role of the reward systems in our brains, our dopamine pathway signals the release of endogenous opiates (natural pleasure inducing chemicals). Dopamine responds to novel or unexpected experiences and rewards us with a burst of pleasure. So, step out of your comfort zone, release your inhibitions, and go ahead, let out a giggle, a chuckle, a chortle, a guffaw, or flat out roll on the ground.

Reclaiming Pleasure

reclaim pleasure Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Walking onto the beach last week to discover the sea turtle filled me with awe. Pausing to appreciate the colors of the sunset can take my breath away. Listening to the sound of the wind rustling the aspen leaves stops me in my tracks.

Pleasurable emotions have been a focus of recent research to better understand the role of positivity on health and immune system functioning. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have turned their attention towards awe, along with other pleasant emotions such as love, amusement, and contentment. They found that awe was most strongly associated with a decrease of inflammation in the body as measured by lower levels of interleukin-6, a molecule that produces inflammation throughout the body. The good news is that feelings of awe may be easier to come by than we might think.

Take the time to reflect on what which inspires you and delights your senses. Maybe you find awe in the sound of children laughing, or the way the light falls upon your garden, or in the savoring of chocolate on your tongue. Slow down and receive the gifts of the moment.

Meditation on Pleasure

reclaiming pleasure Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Focusing on pleasure sometimes takes practice to override our tendency to notice discomfort or pain. I offer this pleasure centered meditation as part of my regular therapeutic yoga classes. This practice invites you to attune to positive sensations in your body nourishing yourself in the sensate experience of pleasure. Enjoy…

  • Find a place of ease: Often when we turn our attention to the body we focus on areas of discomfort or pain. In this meditation, scan your body for a specific area where you feel good, at ease, and relaxed. If you have difficulty finding an area that is pain free take your attention further to your periphery and seek to notice an area of your body that feels neutral such as the tip of your nose or your fingers and toes.
  • Expand into ease: Breathe deeply into the sensations of ease. What are the qualities of your sensations? Is there a temperature, a color, or an image? Can you allow the sensations of ease and relaxation to grow stronger? Perhaps you notice feelings of warmth and pleasure. Imagine these feelings spreading and filling your entire body.
  • Linger and enjoy: Stay with the process of focusing on ease, relaxation, or pleasure for as long as you like. Step out of time. Tell yourself there is no rush. Relax into joy.
  • Refocus as needed: If you get distracted or feel “stuck in your head” gently bring your attention back to the specific area of ease that you started with. Repeat the process. Invite yourself to stay with positive sensations longer each time.

It is a human need to laugh, to feel awe, and to delight in our senses. This requires that we become selfish sometimes. Cultivate opportunities in your life to experience pleasure. Say yes, to that which truly nourishes you and excites you. Your body and mind will thank you.

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About Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dr. Arielle Schwartz

Dr. Arielle Schwartz is a licensed clinical psychologist, wife, and mother in Boulder, CO. She offers trainings for therapists, maintains a private practice, and has passions for the outdoors, yoga, and writing. Dr. Schwartz is the author of The Complex PTSD Workbook: A Mind-Body Approach to Regaining Emotional Control and Becoming Whole (Fall, 2016). She is the developer of Resilience-Informed Therapy which applies research on trauma recovery to form a strength-based, trauma treatment model that includes Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), somatic (body-centered) psychology and time-tested relational psychotherapy. Like Dr. Arielle Schwartz on Facebook, follow her on Linkedin and sign up for email updates to stay up to date with all her posts.


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