Is it instant gratification or real pleasure? Here’s how to tell.
It was a full house at Carnegie Hall in NYC.
The theater lit up, and the music started. Every fiber of my being was awake in anticipation. Then my favorite artist, Ludovico Einaudi, appeared onstage.
As his hands swept across the piano, the distinction between where the music stopped and I began faded.
My mind became quiet, and my edges melted. Any thought of the day prior vanished. Each haunting note reverberated through me.
I became the music. I was engulfed in pure rapture.
This concert was one of the most memorable experiences of my life because I was absorbed in it completely. I’d fed my senses the ultimate food. I’d fed them pleasure.
In the process of complete surrender, time had also vanished. This is a sign of being fully in the moment.
As a result, I was left with the reward of pleasure. The music lingered in me for the rest of the night. I felt nourished to the bone.
We always remember what fills us with pleasure.
People often ask me what I mean by pleasure. For me, pleasure happens when we pause and let our senses delight in our experience.
Close your eyes and ask yourself:
- What gives you the feels? What gives you goosebumps or makes your hairs stand on end?
- What puts you in the
Zone? When do you feel in the flow?
- Where’s the magic for you?
- What arouses your heart and feeds it delight? What brings you joy?
You can learn to feel what these are for you.
This is sensuality. This is pleasure.
When you savor a beautiful object just for the sake of beauty, you experience pleasure. This can be anything that brings you to life simply by placing your focus on it.
Maybe it’s moonlight, inhaling the scent of a rose, a soft caress, or the sweet taste of a single strawberry.
The secret is to pause and relish it. Your focus, with limited distractions, is an essential part of pleasure as a nourishing experience.
It’s important to learn the difference between healthy pleasure and toxic pleasure and what they mean for you.
We often experience a scarcity of nourishing pleasure and an excess of unhealthy pleasure, like overstimulation from screens, overeating, or doing too many things in one day.
The key is to connect inwardly first. Then decipher between instant gratification, which actually numbs our ability to experience real pleasure, and pleasure that fills you with nourishment and joy.
It’s important to remember that if you have to “recover” from an experience, it’s likely not nourishing. While it may be fun, it isn’t the kind of pleasure I’m talking about.
Think about that drinking binge with your buddies or nonstop travel until you’re sleep-deprived and bleary-eyed. When we hit a certain point of “overdoing,” we can’t experience pleasure in the same way.
These kinds of experiences cause us to lose energy and become less sensitive to pleasure.
You gain energy and sensitivity when you connect to your senses, pause, and feed yourself pleasure, without distraction or compromise.
Using pleasure as nourishment has many benefits.
Pleasurable experiences increase your well-being.
Joy and happiness
My favorite benefit of pleasure is increased happiness.
When you place your focus on that which titillates, your focus on that object (or person) increases your sense of happiness.
The more we consciously build ourselves up with healthy pleasure, the more embodied we become. We come home to our bodies as a safe, pleasurable, and joyful place to be.
Joy can increase immunity, decrease stress, and boost your circulatory system.
When we consume things and experiences that don’t nourish us, we leak energy and get off-tilt.
The time and energy it takes to recover from these types of experiences drains us. It leaves us with less energy to find pleasure in simple things, and it can sometimes lead to health issues.
When we focus on simple, nourishing pleasures, we actually gain energy. Think about dancing with a loved one, planting a colorful garden, or taking a walk in a pristine, natural setting.
These simple pleasures don’t deplete us. They give us a boost in energy and lead to a greater sense of pleasure overall.
Inner peace is another result of the healing power of pleasure. When you focus on pleasure entering your senses, your mind quiets.
You can feel expansive and spacious, free of limitations like fleeting thoughts and distractions.
Your senses are the gateway to connect your mind to your body from the outside world. As pleasure enters, you calm down, and mental chatter decreases.
Arousing pleasure in your body through your senses can even minimize pain with the activation of oxytocin.
According to one study, “Triggering our body to release this hormone could be a potential method for pain treatment. For example, sensory stimulation like touch and warmth, or even food [can release oxytocin].”
Simple things like the touch of a loved one or a favorite meal can enhance our sense of ease in our bodies.
“Furthermore, oxytocin may also be released by stimulation of other senses such as olfaction, as well as by certain types of lights and sound,” the researchers wrote.
We become undistracted when we pause and take in pleasure because we enjoy the experience. This desire keeps us present.
The practice of slowing down and focusing keeps you in the moment. Then your joy creates the map for your life, from one moment to the next.
Presence and pleasure combined have incredible results. They keep you in the joyful, pleasurable now.
Your custom pleasure roadmap is accessible to you all the time. You can ask yourself which sense needs more love and adjust accordingly.
- a luxurious scented bath to feed the sense of smell
- the meandering instruments of a song to feed the sense of sound
- the caress of your silk scarf on your neck to feed the sense of touch
- gazing at a piece of your favorite art to feed the sense of sight
- slowly savoring a piece of dark chocolate to feed the sense of taste
Once you make the choice, the method is elegantly simple:
- Feed yourself pleasure, whatever kind you choose.
Life is inherently pleasurable. All we need to do is slow down and experience it consciously. When we take away the distractions, we can find delight everywhere.
Pleasure is inside you, not in an object, experience, or person. Eventually, this perspective can make everything you let into your senses nourishing.
Pleasure is so powerful because we have access to it constantly, in ourselves and in our environment. We just need to connect to it.
The next time you’re walking and see a rose, remember as you take in the beautiful scent that this pause in pleasure isn’t frivolous. It’s essential nourishment.
Karuna Sabnani, NMD, is the founder of Karuna Naturopathic Healthcare. She works virtually with patients internationally. Her advice has appeared in a variety of publications including Cosmopolitan, Business Insider, Yoga Journal, Martha Stewart, and Allure Magazines. You can find her on Instagram and at www.karunanaturopathic.com.