Savoring pleasure means consciously enjoying a pleasant experience as it unfolds. This perspective comes from the hedonic approach to happiness which defines well-being in terms of pleasure attainment and avoidance of pain. The main point is that experiencing pleasure and positive emotion can help you fight stress in a high-pressure environment. This approach is particularly effective when combined with mind-body practices for attaining long-term happiness. For example, mindful focus on pleasant experiences with an emphasis on gratitude and self-compassion can simultaneously bring forth the benefits associated with each of these practices.
Pleasure Comes From Full Engagement
Positive psychology researchers Martin Seligman, Ph.D. and Christopher Peterson, Ph.D. emphasize the importance of experiencing pleasurable emotions as a fundamental part of well-being. Their model of happiness is build on a balance of feeling good and doing good.
This point is especially important for medical professionals who often neglect their own needs and forget that in order to give yourself to others, you have to make sure that you have enough to give.
Psychologists have long established a positive relationship between engagement and pleasure. In the words of Dr. Seligman, “Where pleasure matters is if you have both engagement and you have meaning, then pleasure’s the whipped cream and the cherry.
Doing vs. Being
Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard famously said, "Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." On the other end are constantly busy people who neglect their own basic needs. He has a quote about them too:
''The most ludicrous of all ludicrous things, it seems to me, is to be busy in the world, to be a man who is brisk at his meals and brisk at his work[…] What, after all, do these busy bustlers achieve? Are they not just like that woman who, in a flurry because the house was on fire, rescued the fire tongs? What more, after all, do they salvage from life’s huge conflagration?''
Kierkegaard said these word almost two centuries ago, but they are especially true in our modern age where life is fast and opportunity cost high. Many of us have lost the capacity to appreciate simple pleasures without thinking about daily stressors or better alternatives. We are frustrated, fragmented, running in a hamster wheel that never stops. To end this vicious cycle, we need to understand the alternative, or the difference between "doing" and "being".
There is the “doing mode,” which is what we do when we’re trying to get out of the gap between how life is and how we want it to be. But there is another mode, and that is the “being mode.” In the being mode, you can more easily control where you put your attention. Instead of frantically striving to change things, you can choose to do little things that bring you pleasure, and things that help you experience positive emotions.
Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson has extensively researched the effects of the being mode on stress and has come up with a model of how positive affect interacts with resilience, known as the "broaden and build" theory of positive psychology. Fredrickson and others have found that when we give ourselves a lift in mood, this can expand (or broaden) our perspective so that we notice more possibilities in our lives, and this enables us to more easily take advantage of (to build upon) these resources. These resources include the following:
Physical Resources: Energy, stamina, fitness, health, and overall wellness. For example, if you’re in a good mood, you may have more motivation to go to the gym.
Psychological Resources: This includes the ability to choose more optimistic perspectives, pull yourself out of rumination, or withstand hectic schedules without experiencing burnout. If you have more positive affect, for example, you might be less prone to dwelling on the negative and may focus on possibilities in your life.
Pleasure is more than it seems to be
Dr. Fredrickson is a strong proponent of using pleasure for improving our well-being. She claims that feelings of pleasure and joy can work as an "upward spiral" of positivity where positive affect begets more resilience toward stress and more positive affect. This is why it really helps to cultivate positive moods and pleasure in life; it's not just something that will lead to some good feelings in the moment, but it can be a path to less stress and a happier life in general.
Savoring means placing your attention on pleasure as it happens, consciously enjoying the experience as it unfolds. Most people tend to experience pleasure in special moments, such as a wedding day or a vacation. Small daily pleasures, on the other hand, can slip by without much notice unless they vanish or seem threatened. There's nothing like a medical scare to spur appreciation of good health, or a series of cloudy days to have you appreciating the sun when it re-emerges.
Fred Bryant of Loyola University and the late Joseph Veroff of the University of Michigan were pioneers in the scientific study of savoring. Their work, described in the textbook Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience in 2006, is used by psychologists who continue to investigate how you can become happier by learning to savor the present moment. These researchers have found that appreciating the treasures in life, big and small, helps build happiness. Whether or not savoring pleasure is already one of your paths to happiness, you can enhance your capacity to recognize and enjoy the pleasures in your day.
The Happy Doctor Project provides exercises that turn savoring of pleasure into a daily skill for increased mindfulness and well-being. Our practices fit into an easy to follow regimen specifically designed for busy medical professionals.
This approach is unique because it combines effective mind-body practices with pleasurable activities such as massage, aroma therapy, and facials. Thus, the useful and the pleasant become mutually reinforcing and quickly establish healthy habits that reduce stress and promote well-being. Our programs are beneficial not only to people suffering from burnout and compassion fatigue but to anyone who wants to improve their emotional state, find more meaning in life, and fulfill their potential.
Exercise 1: Use your skin care products with Pleasure
- Apply cream slowly and with pleasure.
- Focus on the sensation of the cream on your skin.
- Notice its aroma. Enjoy it mindfully.
- Notice color and texture of cream. Enjoy its smoothness and richness.
- When using the Perfectio LED unit, focus on the warmth and softness of its touch to your skin.
- Relax and think with gratitude about the high quality luxurious product that you're using. You deserve it.
- Remind yourself of your mission to save lives and serve others. Each pleasant sensation you experience heals your stress and charges you with energy to continue pursuing your life purpose.
Exercise 2: Be Kind to Yourself
- Apply cream slowly and with kindness to yourself.
- Remind yourself that you do your best to help others and that you have a higher calling.
- Associate each pleasant sensation with the notion that you are taking care of yourself. Focusing on self-care will naturally make you feel good.
- Apply a facial mask and focus on the pleasant sensation on your face. This is your special time when you get to enjoy life 100%.
- When using your Perfectio LED unit, remind yourself that this is a luxury product that people love and enjoy, although very few can afford. This is your special gift to yourself. Savor it with presence and gratitude. Say to yourself the following mantra, "I'm caring for myself and I feel good about it."