7 Ways to Practice Pleasure This Week | Chris Kresser

7 Ways to Practice Pleasure This Week

by Chris Kresser

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Are you getting enough pleasure in your life? Discover seven ways you can practice pleasure this week, and how they can improve your health.

Most people know that nutrition and movement are important for health, but fewer people are aware how significantly other factorssuch as pleasure and social connectioncan influence our physical well-being.

The activities we perceive as pleasurable release chemicals in our body, such as endorphins and oxytocin, that have positive health effects.

For example, both endorphins and oxytocin decrease circulating levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that drives the fight-or-flight response. (1, 2) Since many of us are living under stressful conditions that cause cortisol to be chronically elevated, anything that can reduce cortisol levels will probably be beneficial for health.

Endorphins also enhance immune function, and oxytocin can lower blood pressure and improve response to stressful events. (3, 4, 5)

And they simply make us feel good!

Here are 7 ways to practice #pleasure in your life this week.

There are many reasons to prioritize pleasure in your life, but it can be an easy thing to forget in the midst of work, home, school, and other obligations. But having a plan to prioritize pleasure can help make your goals a reality, so in this article, I’ll share with you you seven easy ways you can increase the pleasure in your life this week.

1. Listen to (Or Play) Some Music

Almost everyone likes some type of music, and listening to music is one of the easiest ways to bring more pleasure into your life. Research indicates that music can reduce pain and anxiety, reduce cortisol, and increase levels of oxytocin. (6, 7, 8) One study also found that participating in a drumming group improved immune function by increasing natural killer and other killer cell activity. (9)

This week, make a point of listening to music that makes you happy, whether that’s playing your favorite song on your way to work, stopping to listen to street performers, or going to a concert. Even better, play an instrument yourself, or get some friends together and have a jam session.

2. Take a Hike

Walking is great no matter where you do it, but we can probably all agree that walking in a natural setting is much more enjoyable than walking on paved roads or inside on a treadmill.

And now that the weather has warmed up (here in the northern hemisphere), there’s no reason not to get outside and enjoy nature!

For most of human history, we spent the majority of our time outdoors, and we’re wired to derive pleasure from interacting with nature. (10) Spending time in nature has been shown to decrease stress and improve a variety of health conditions, from depression and anxiety to heart disease. (11, 12) Hiking is a great way to reap the benefits of being in nature as well as the benefits of moving around.

3. Get Some Sun

While you’re outside, make sure to get some sun – and not just because it feels good. Contrary to popular opinion, the sun is not there to burn you and give you skin cancer. Regular sun exposure is actually good for your health, and may help modulate the immune system, decrease blood pressure, and improve cardiovascular health. (13, 14)

And of course, sunlight also prompts vitamin D production in the body. Vitamin D is necessary for bone health and proper immune function, and might protect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other negative health outcomes. (15, 16, 17) And it’s probably best to skip the sunscreen, as long as you’re careful not to get burnt!

4. Watch a Funny Movie

The old adage “laughter is the best medicine” has stuck around for a reason – laughter really is good for your health. One study in healthy adult women found that watching a funny video reduced stress and improved the activity of natural killer immune cells, compared with a “distraction” group that watched a non-humorous video. (18) Laughter has also been shown to improve immune function and stress response in cancer patients. (19)

If movies aren’t your thing, try looking up some videos of stand-up comedy performances. Or, better yet, treat yourself to a live comedy show. If all else fails, just hang out with your friends or children or pets for a few hours; one of them is bound to do something funny.

5. Get a Massage

Another great way to get more pleasure in your life is through human touch. You could always just go hug your partner or a friend, but why not kick it up a notch and get a massage this week?  Massage is associated with an increase in oxytocin and a decrease in hormones associated with stress. (20) Regular massage has also been found to increase immune function and decrease markers of inflammation. (21)

A massage is a great thing to do with your partner for a romantic night in, or if you’re single, treat yourself to a full-body massage at a spa. They’re an indulgence, but a worthwhile one if you need some extra pleasure in your life.

6. Schedule a Date Night

In a world that’s more connected than ever through the internet and social media, it’s ironic that many of us may be suffering from a lack of human connection. A large study published in 2010 found that social support was a better predictor of survival than a slew of other risk factors, including BMI, physical activity, blood pressure, air pollution, smoking, and alcohol consumption. (22)

It’s also well-known that married people tend to have increased life expectancies, while people who are lonely tend to have higher levels of heart disease, insomnia, inflammation, cancer, and depression. (23, 24)

This is all observational research, but you probably don’t need anyone to tell you that social connection is a vital part of health and happiness. Humans naturally crave connection with others, whether through family, friendships, or romantic relationships.

If you have a romantic partner, schedule a date night to spend some quality time with them this week. Otherwise, make time to visit with a close friend or family member, even if it’s just a quick coffee or lunch date.

7. Play a Game

If you want to spend time with family or friends this week but aren’t sure what to do, why not have a game night? Break out the board games, card games, poker table, or Scrabble board and just have fun for a few hours! Or, if those types of games aren’t your thing, you could go for something more energetic like a game of basketball, frisbee, or volleyball.

Playing games and sports can help both children and adults feel less stressed, and can even improve social intelligence, memory, and problem solving skills. (25) Having a regular family game night is a great way for you to destress, strengthen your relationships, teach your children to socialize appropriately, and have fun all at the same time.

Those are my seven suggestions for getting more pleasure in your life this week. If you’ve read my book, you might recall that pleasure and social connection actually played a big role in my own journey back to health—and they’re core components of ancestral health.

I’m a big believer in the importance of pleasure and do my best to make it a priority in my life, and I hope these suggestions help you start to prioritize pleasure in your life as well.

Now I’d like to hear from you: what are your favorite ways to incorporate pleasure into your life? 

54 Comments

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  1. The thing that’s most important about this article is that it can trigger the snowball effect…

    I’ve written about it before, once you do one small step to nourish yourself, other things can start falling into place.

    So many of my women clients forget to take time to enjoy themselves and I encourage them all to take an epsom salt bath once or twice a week to transdermally replenish magnesium levels, but to reduce stress and gently detox as well!

  2. Being with my two year old grandson is one of my pleasures in life. Each time I see him, I felt joyful. He is my little buddy with unconditional love.

  3. Hi I have a good one alternative for number 5 (and much less expensive and convenient)

    Foam rolling!

    In 10 minutes you can massage your whole body
    And if you have the time a 30 minute session will leave you as a new person

    If new to foam rolling google some sequences and start there, later you will create your own

  4. I would like to increase pleasure by making love to my husband, after your suggested “date night”! 🙂 Remember, Chris…you asked for comments!!!

  5. Now I have a scientific answer for those folks who think it’s a waste of time to watch silly cat vids on the Internet — it makes you healthy! And it’s probably even better if you sip a glass of red wine and eat a piece of dark chocolate while you watch. Darn! How come it took so long for science to catch up to what most of us have known for decades?

  6. Barefoot walk in dirt or on grass. Your feet connecting to the earth are another key component to access good endorphins.

  7. Sitting outside on the balcony or deck, listening to the sounds of nature, or enjoying the play of sunlight on the surfaces and feeling the occasional cool breezes or warmth of the sunshine. I also very much like the sounds of nature, birds singing, wind in the leaves, water in the fountain or the sound of rain. The sights, sounds, feel, and smell of nature always gives me pleasure, whether it is for a few moments, or if I’m fortunate, a few hours. It’s free and spontaneous, no matter where you are

  8. A useful post but I have to say William Ganness has a point, without sex all the other pleasures listed lose their savor. Without erotic touch life is just a grind.
    Tod

  9. Its nice to see advice like this Chris, it might sound obvious but people can forget the most basic things, i know I did too and value the odd reminder. Although there are so many ways to reduce stress surely you should be reducing stress with a view to increasing joy.

  10. This is a great article because it will touch so many people.
    Chris has mentioned 7 steps just to SPARK US into focusing on the things in life that make us happy. I practice all of the above and so much more. Plant a flower garden for the birds, bees, and butterflies. A vegetable garden for yourself – yum!
    Volunteer – there is such pleasure in helping others! Even if it is only a couple hours one day a week. Have cookouts! Have spiritual meetings! Go LIVE LIFE! 🙂

  11. Wonderful reminders. Thank you Chris. As a former workaholic I need to be reminded to give myself pleasure — without feeling guilty! For me the greatest pleasure is reading s good book/story. Many thanks.

  12. Love this post, Chris. A great reminder to slow down and have a good time while trying to juggle so many things.

    It seems like everyone is chiming in with “what you forgot” but I think these are a great place to start and that most everyone could experience some form of everything you suggested. Playing with pets is a great stress reducer but not everyone has them.

    • I’ve been very, very sad lately due the recent loss of a beloved dog, truly my best friend. I’m not ready for another dog right now, but I miss having one. So I take/make every opportunity to spend time caring for neighbors’ dogs (and helping out friends feels good too), and when I go on walks or see dogs in the environment, I always stop to admire them and ask if I can pet them. Dogs are such amazing creatures and the world is a much better place with them in it.

      It’s also possible to be a volunteer walker or play pal at the SPCA or local shelters.

      So I would argue that there are many ways to incorporate pets into our lives and enjoy them, even if they don’t live with us.

      • “Elmo” was a precious dog, always shy and timid until he got to know me, then he would always do his little “downwaard dog” pose when he saw me, and was ready for his scratches under his chin. He just was hit by a truck after 6 days running wild in Kahului, Maui. He jumped out of his owners car at the mall and ran, so sad. I have been sobbing, and really appreciating how he opened my heart since I have NEVER gotten over the loss of my girl, Mer, 15, who died peacefully under a full moon at Ho’okipa, Maui 11.11.2008! Yes, I am determinedly doing all of these suggestions I can, and praying in those I do not yet have access to. Thanks for a great list and a great reminder: we are born to be soft, loving, connected and in Nature. Got that!

  13. I am an avid follower of Chris and i dont agree with this article. It lacks any real advice. The easiest way to get the pleasure hormones running is via sexual activity. Orgasm at least in men might be one of those factors that science has ignored even though a lot is now understood and not just by epidemiological means, the biochemistry is now well understood and i have a gut feeling that it might be one of the keys to the lifespan gap. Male orgasms are highly correlated with long life. Also women having unprotected sex with men also benefit significant through having their chemistry improved greatly. Women who regularly have condom-less sex are significantly less likely to suffer depression. And for men we are not talking about sex with partners but masturbation – might just be one of the healthiest activities men can engage in. There is too much negative research on sexual issues especially where men are concerned. Societal norms take a great toll on male sexuality. We need to do more research on this.

      • I am presuming that you have an internet connection where you can search for abstracts on studies etc. Um… This is not a scientific discussion in these forums. If you disagree fine, i know of the research.

    • You put in precise words my internal mind reaction to this Article, I agree 100% with it. The fact is that Joy of Living is more hormone related that we as a society are willing to accept, it is highly correlated with our eating habits and the correct supp’s at the right time ( including the ones in an hormone replacement therapy..) just my experience…lmb 66 y.o. Mexico.

    • Excuse me, William, did you mix up the dating website with Kresser’s newsletter? LOL! Hey, Chris is right – laughter really IS pleasurable! Oh, and best of luck trolling for players with that line about unprotected sex.

    • Hi William,

      Interesting comment (and great post Chris). I totally agree that one thing somewhat missing from this list is orgasm…Chris alludes to it (date night, touch with a romantic partner) but doesn’t focus on it specifically.

      You should check out a practice called orgasmic meditation (OM) – look up onetaste.us – this is a really powerful way to release oxytocin, connect deeply with another person, and doesn’t require unprotected intercourse!

    • This comment is completely out of place. Chris is sharing with us “seven easy ways you can increase the pleasure in your life this week.” He didn’t say that the list was including every possible way to practice pleasure. He focused on things that are easy for most people to do at any time. Most people can choose to listen to music, go for a walk, watch a funny movie, etc.

      But the idea that “unprotected sex” is accessible to most people is just delusional. Most people would say that sexual activity is not “the easiest way to get the pleasure hormones running”.

    • “Women who regularly have condom-less sex are significantly less likely to suffer from depression.”

      This is a highly risky statement, even if true. There are numerous natural ways to reduce existing depression and the odds of future depression, without risking unwanted pregnancy. An unwanted pregnancy? An unwanted child? Now THAT is something that could lead to unhappiness, hardship and depression, in both the parents and the child who was an accident and unprepared for.

  14. This is different from the usual, Chris, but also important. It’s hard to get healthy when you don’t have good motivation like a happy life.

    • Sometimes the act of getting healthy can also help you get happier. A good walk, for example, does make you feel better, especially if you do as Chris suggests and do it in a lovely natural setting, and you’re doing yourself good at the same time. You don’t have to be happy to get healthy, but getting healthy definitely makes you feel happier!

  15. Great article! Doing pleasurable things has been key to eliminating my headaches. Candle-light baths with epsom salts/ magnesium flakes, while letting the brain process the day’s events and thoughts, idle time to allow the mind do the same, nature, hot and cold showers (as needed), sensory pleasures, including beauty, running (to get the pleasurable feelings after), visualisation tapes, physical work, etc.

    Reducing left-brain activities has been important for me because Iove learning, reading theory books, and taking challenges… But these activities only treat my left-brain, not the parasympathetic nervous system, the subconcious, the body or the spirit. So I have to stop myself from trying to all the time do something ‘useful’, and to learn to really relax and to waste time 🙂

    And it’s working!

  16. Chris – in your first section on music you failed to mention singing. Most basically, just singing in the bath opens your lungs and your spirit! I have been lucky enough to sing some of the best choral music in a great choir with some of the top conductors in the world. But there are groups of singers of all standards who enjoy the pleasure of making music together. I should think that feeling your own voice vibrating through your body is as good for you as drumming!

    • Actually you’re both right — he said play an instrument, and the voice IS a musical instrument, perhaps the greatest instrument. Cheers!

    • Brilliant! Yes, singing brings oxygen deep into my lungs and that feels so good with beautiful music coming out of my mouth. Singing while walking in Nature and moving my arms around like I’m dancing; Now, this is pleasure, to me!

    • You know, the voice was the very first musical instrument humans had. Make music with your own vocal chords or violin strings — the benefits are the same!

  17. HI Chris, a glaring omission seems to be sex. So many people derive pleasure from sexual activity and sexual play (with themselves and/or with a partner). Not to mention non-sexual touch and all forms of physical intimacy. Sharing play and affection with children is another of life’s pleasures that could be emphasized. I’m sure there are volumes on the health benefits of these for people of all genders and throughout the lifespan.

    • Hi Penelope,

      I fully agree with you about sex, but it isn’t always accessible to all people—which is why it was left out of this article.

      • Mmmmhh…c’mon Chriss, i guess you are being polite in this…Body ( which is not our eternal and only reality ) has its own agenda. Pleasure by sex is the Number one motivation after breathing. It plays in a diferent way in men and women but it is the way world as humans specie assure continuoum. Problem is we humans, via morality and social rules cover it with a lot of laws and unnatural behaviors.

        • Yep. Mr Kresser is being polite. He does mention date nights, and the indulgence of a full body-massage…does he really need to spell it out to y’all? 😉

          Smashing article…made me smile. I read the book, some time ago; and this was a great reminder of a part of it I’d really enjoyed and appreciated at the time – but had somehow neglected to put into practice long-term…

          Thanks, Mr K 🙂

  18. All are mood lifters for me, and my mainstay is music, listening or playing, several different genres. I am easily anxious by nature, so I make sure I get my hugs and as many hours of jam time as I can fit in. I can’t walk miles or dance with osteo arthritis, but music runs in my veins.

    • Hello GG, thanks for the reminders ! I too have osteo and sometimes if I am feeling down I can enjoy the quiet, but often forget about the music ! Any music will evoke an emotion in me, so I will make an effort to listen to more ….!

    • Hi Granny I helped to start a community choir for street people it is the highlight of their week and I really get much more from those less fortunate than I give to them.. the smiles the joy the laughter the sharing – it gives a voice & family & pride in themselves to those who previously had no voice Anyone can sing – it just sounds different God bless you & all those givers out there

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