This is the ninth post in a series about living the virtuous life like Benjamin Franklin. We’re taking his life and applying it to marriage and relationships.
Avoid extremes. Forebear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Pleasure. It’s one of the things most every human seeks. We love what it feels like and go to great links trying to experience it.
But could too much pleasure be bad for us?
The constant pursuit of things that excite and stimulate us can actually produce a problem known as anhedonia – an inability to experience pleasure or happiness. Our pursuit of extreme and overstimulating thrills can hijack our pleasure system and rob us of our ability to experience pleasure in the simple things.
We can literally be thrilled to death.
Our society, especially the commercialization and consumerism side, preach that the cure for boredom, depression, and unhappiness is the latest gadget or more of something else. More stimulation, more sex, more money, more music, more food. The interesting thing is, the more stimulation we receive, the less joy and fulfillment we get out of it.
The key to experiencing greater fulfillment and pleasure is actually moderation.
Moderation doesn’t seem to get a lot of play these days. Everything is presented in extremes. There’s extreme sports, extreme deodorant, extreme energy drinks, even an Extreme Teen Bible. We seek extremes because we erroneously believe that the more intense an experience is, the more pleasurable it will be.
How Moderation Can Increase Our Pleasure
When we feel unhappy and bored there are two ways to revive our feelings of enjoyment and pleasure. One is to seek new things and more stimulation. You can start going out more, having sex more, and buying more new things and experiences. But the pleasure you get from ratcheting up the intensity of these experiences will eventually end in a plateau. The alternative is to cultivate the virtue of moderation by seeking greater enjoyment and pleasure in things you are already doing now.
Here’s seven steps that will help:
- Seek the right form of pleasure. There’s a difference between healthy pleasure and unhealthy pleasure. Most often, the difference is obvious. As a general rule, if there’s any bit of doubt whether the pleasure is healthy or not, it’s likely not.
- Recapture the joy of little things. Most often in life, the simple things provide the greatest pleasure. Time spent with family. Home cooking. Fresh bread. Playing outside.
- Control your adrenaline. Force yourself to slow down throughout the day. Unplug from the world at least once a week, if not for periods of time daily, by shutting off cell phones, turning off the Internet and TV. Breathe. Relax. Spend time with others.
- Use humor to enhance your happiness. Laughter truly is the best medicine. Take every opportunity to laugh, especially at yourself.
- Develop appreciation and gratitude. Find time each and every day to be appreciative and gracious to those around you.
- Master relaxation and meditation. Close your eyes, breathe deeply. It provides a tremendous perspective to the things going on in life.
- Make space for things that matter. Perhaps the greatest tip – never let the immediate replace the important.
Archibald Hart, Thrilled to Death
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