Tag Archives: pleasure

Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

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Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again?

We’ve looked at how easy it is to lose a good feeling. A simple change in sensation can derail pleasure. (If you’re just joining us, you can read part one of this series by clicking here). We’ve also discovered that our own perceptions and beliefs can contribute to pleasure loss (to review this concept, click here).

Now we’ve come to the good part! The reason you’ve come back, the reason you’re taking precious moments from your busy life to read this little blog:

How to get the feeling back!

happy found on clipart by Word

It really is important to have pleasure. How many marriages fail when a partner looks elsewhere for pleasure? It’s a common misconception to think that making a new connection with a different partner will restore pleasure. It’s only partly wrong, though. Making a new connection is essential. The different partner, well, that’s debatable!

The new connections we need are not necessarily with new people. We need to make new connections in our brains. When changes in sensation (like those sprinkler heads) result in a misfire in the pleasure response, our brains need new associations to restore pleasure. It’s neuroscience, but it’s not that complicated:

One neuron reaches out to shake hands with another.

“Pleased to meet you!”

“Likewise, charmed. Let’s meet here again.”

Most of us have heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist around the turn of the 20th century, used dogs in his studies of the digestive system. He paired a stimulus (like ringing a bell) with food presentation. Before long, he noted the dogs began to salivate at the mere ringing of the bell, even without the aroma or visual presentation food. The ability to create purposeful connections between the digestive system and the brain became known as “classical conditioning.”

It’s old science now, but still true.

Since then, scientists have discovered much more about brains. We now know that our brains constantly learn–including how to learn better.  We also know that natural chemicals in our brains can make us feel excited, good or pleasantly satisfied.  Perhaps most relevant to our task of restoring pleasure, scientists who study the brain found that

neurons that fire together, wire together.” neuronal connections with blue light from Word clipart

This is a catchy way of saying that pairing one sensation or movement with another, repeatedly, enhances their function, and eventually, activating one automatically activates the other.

We can re-condition our brain to respond to new stimuli with a pleasurable response!

Crazy, huh!?!

But true.

Try it! Pick something that always makes you feel good. Maybe it’s an Adam Sandler movie. Maybe it’s a sensual time with your partner. Maybe it’s a big slice of Death by Chocolate cake. Now, add a new sensation or movement while you enjoy this activity every time you do it for the next month or two. For example, bring a certain pillow to place on your lap every time you watch a funny movie. You may want to try touching an area on your face during intimacy. Or, if you’re the chocolate lover, play or hum the same piece of music with each bite.

eating chocolate cake

Before long, you’ll find that when you experience the sensation you’ve added to your pleasurable activity, your brain will start sending out that pleasure response! Just picking up that pillow makes you smile. Stroking your cheek in that spot will. . . Your song on the radio will give you the feeling you’ve just had a scrumptious slice of chocolate cake!

Neuroscientists are our friends! They also research methods to enhance new brain cell connections (neuroplasticity). They’ve found that physical and brain exercises boost neuronal growth.

For this week, along with practicing the pairing we just discussed, add some physical exercise to your daily routine. It needn’t be much; just an extra walk around the block, some light resistance work, or a few extra times up and down the stairs. Do this while you’re thinking pleasurable thoughts, and your brain will have more reason to fire up those neuronal connections.

brain exercises found on Word clipart

Next week, we’ll discuss more brain exercises we can do to improve our pleasure responses–even if they’re impaired by our own erroneous beliefs. For now, though, you have plenty of things to try. Please join me in a discussion by commenting below.

  • How will you be pairing activities to restore pleasure?
  • What exercises will you add to your daily routine this week?
  • Have you found new connections that restored your pleasure, now or in the past?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

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Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

 

Last week I wrote about sprinkler heads.

Why would anyone stop to read about sprinkler heads?

Because it’s really about pleasure, and adapting to changes that block our pleasure.

Maybe for you, it’s the sound of rain on the roof that triggers a pleasure response. Or perhaps you’re drawn to the beach, where the rhythmic splash of the surf and the caress of warm breezes relaxes your soul. Some prefer the mountains, with the scent of pine, and expansive views. Still others are drawn to the city, where light and movement persist. Wherever you’ve found yourself prone to relax, forget your stressors and relish the moment, I’m writing about that spot. I’m writing about our brains associating sensations (like the sound of the sprinklers) with pleasure.

Then something happens to change the sensation.

  • The sprinkler heads need replacing, and the new ones make a different sound.
  • Construction of a ten-story condominium interrupts your favorite spot at the beach.
  • A stuffy nose blocks you from the aroma of pine trees on your mountain hike.
  • The building across the street hangs a huge neon sign that blocks your view of the city.

And the pleasure is gone.

That’s what I’m writing about! We all relate to pleasure. We want it. We need it. Without it, life is drudgery.

How do we find pleasure once it’s gone?

(That’s why you’re reading it.)

Hang with me, for this five-part series will get you there.

Today, I’m going to share with you a little more in depth about an obstacle I’m facing that is more challenging than changing sprinkler heads. It’s an obstacle that has been steadily crimping my pleasure for several years now, and one that I think many of you can relate to:

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

I was going to knock around the tennis ball with my husband well into my 70’s. I was going to be that 80-year old still running the 5-K. I was going to dance in sexy high-heels well into my 90’s. I was going to lift bags of potting soil and bend over to tend the garden perhaps to 100.

Something ordinary and un-interesting cut off those pleasures well before their time: aging. In this aging body, they’ve labeled it many things: fibromyalgia (which I called the boogie monster in this article), arthritis, bone spurs, bulging discs and even a non-bony union of the subtalar joint. (Geez!) Whatever they’ve called it, it’s been one thing after another, and it’s always left me with a choice between:

getting to do the active things I love           or

check feeling good enough to function in daily responsibilities.

I fought it for a while. When my right shoulder hurt all the time, I taught my left arm to swing the racket. Then my left shoulder hurt. With both shoulders, a hip, low back and ankle hurting, I finally left the tennis court.

gif funny tennis game over aging pleasure
Credit senorgifcom

 

 

Eventually, even less strenuous activities like ballroom dance, yoga, biking, walking and gardening produced pain, which crowded out the pleasure.

For many people, this is “just a part of aging.” They don’t talk much about it. They just don’t do as much as they used to do.

Does aging necessarily mean life without pleasure? Is aging a slow process of peeling back the layers of pleasure until, at last, we’re ready to say goodbye to this cruel world?

I stepped back to think on this.

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs Be sure to read this second in a five-part series designed to help you restore pleasue after losing it! This is not just for the aging, it is for anyone who is experiencing a loss of pleasure!

(Selah)

What was it about that vision (of being the active older person) that gave me pleasure?

Was the pleasure response from running, playing tennis, dancing, yoga, biking, walking and gardening from their associated sensations? Was it from the pounding of my joints on the pavement? Was it from the sweat rolling down my face as I darted side to side across the clay to reach the yellow ball? Was it from seeing the same houses as I biked around our neighborhood day after day? Was it from the gentle breeze on an evening walk, or the impression of the soil between my gloved hands as I planted a new flower in the yard?

Or could that pleasure response also come from something inside? Something I perceived or believed?

When I thought about the pleasure response that came from being an accomplished, active senior, it wasn’t really about the sound, or the scent, or the tactile input. What was it, then?

Could it have been pride of achievement, of being better-than-average?

Hmmm.

I admit I’ve enjoyed that feeling since childhood. As the fourth of six children, affirmation and attention came from being the smart one, the honor roll student and the fastest in relay races. I could recite the alphabet before my school-aged brother when I was two years old. I could out-spell all of my older siblings by the time I was eight. I did algebra from my brother’s 9th grade textbook when I was ten, and, by the time I was thirteen, I could cook, clean and budget better than my mother.

Maybe so, then. Maybe I’ve held an erroneous belief all these years, and didn’t ever notice it.

If aging—and its associated decrease in good sensations—continues this way (as it likely will), then where can pleasure be found, if not from the feeling of being better-than-average?

(It never should have been from feeling better-than-average in the first place, but that is beside the point!)

My experience with aging is just one example of how loss of pleasure can be related not only to a change in physical sensation but also to underlying perceptions or beliefs.

Maybe you had to stop and examine yourself, too. Maybe a challenge you faced persisted to the point that you had to look deeper into yourself to question why you struggled to adapt to your loss. Maybe you didn’t even realize you held erroneous perceptions or beliefs, until you had to stop and examine the matter.

Yet, here we are: a change in sensation, a change in some bodily function, a change in something beyond our control, a change that keeps us from achieving that which we believed would make us feel better– and pleasure eludes us.

What can be done?

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again?

That’s where we’ll pick up next week.

(Oh, yes, you have to wait a week!)

In the meantime, I hope you’ll join this conversation by commenting below (in orange, where its says “Leave a comment.” What changes in sensations, or functions, or other losses seem to rob you of the pleasure response in your brain? What underlying perceptions or beliefs have you identified in between your ears?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

 

Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

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Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

Comfortably settling into my spot on the back porch for Sunday morning coffee, I noticed it.

It didn’t feel right. It seemed empty. What was it?

The coffee was its usual perfect color, aroma and taste. The cushions and pillows cradled and supported me as always; the velvety plum-colored pillow (brought out from indoors) fit perfectly on my lap, softly snuggling my coffee mug between my savoring sips. The garden sported more than its usual splendor of blooms. The squirrel did its ritual leap from the tree to reach the squirrel-proof bird feeder, where it cleverly clung to the wire mesh and bounced to get the seeds to fall out. Birdsong filled the air, announcing another beautiful day forthcoming, while the birds awaited their turn at the feeder. The sprinklers were on (I timed them to come on just as I get there so I can enjoy their rhythmical dance across the lawn).

Yet my usual Sunday-morning-on-the-back-porch-peaceful feeling eluded me. What was it? Read the rest of this entry