“The capacity to experience pleasure or enjoyment without getting distracted by intrusive thoughts contributes at least as much to a happy and satisfied life as successful self-control.”

According to new research from the University of Zurich and Radboud University in the Netherlands, enjoying short-term pleasurable activities that don’t lead to long-term goals contributes at least as much to a happy life as self-control. The researchers therefore argue for a greater appreciation of hedonism in our lives.

This is one of those hot new research topics that comes out and makes people think to themselves, “Wait, I already knew that. How much money did they spend to find that out?”

Now that sounds right up my alley. Hedonism, of course, is the devotion to pleasure as a way of life.

It doesn’t sound plausible in the life in the life of a mom, though, right? Not full-time hedonism, but the bigger picture here is that we may want to spend more of our time on relaxing and enjoying each moment instead of thinking that we will someday become happy when we are thinner, richer, stronger, more flexible or just more whatever.

The new research shows that people’s capacity to experience pleasure or enjoyment in the moment contributes at least as much to a happy and satisfied life as successful self-control (such as weight loss).

Researchers found that people get distracted by intrusive thoughts in moments of relaxation or enjoyment because they start thinking about activities or tasks that they should be doing instead. For example, when lying on the couch you might keep thinking of how you should be cleaning the house instead. These thoughts are in direct conflict with the immediate need to relax.

On the other hand, people who can fully enjoy themselves while relaxing tend to have a higher sense of well-being in general, not only in the short term, and are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, among other things.

This all goes back to mindfulness. Here are some tips on how to simply relax and enjoy your downtime.

 1. Listen

If you are trying to relax and find it difficult to stop your mind from churning on all of the things going on in your life, or things you “should” be doing, focus on the sounds around you. If you are outside, listen to the birds chirping, lawn mowers grumbling or children playing. Don’t think, just listen.

2. Look Around

Maybe you are taking a walk to clear your mind but all you can think about are the chores that lay ahead. Look at the trees, plants, flowers or even weeds as you pass along. Notice things that are pretty or even in need of repair. Wonder how long the trees have been growing. Just be very mindful of the nature around you and be amazed at the gift of life among all things.

3. Be Joyful

Many refer to this as gratitude, or thankfulness. Even in our darkest hour we can find things to be thankful for. Is it a nice day out? Or is it raining and providing the grass and flowers with much-needed water? Are you healthy? Are your children safe? Do you have a sturdy home and enough to eat? It doesn’t have to be much.

How are you going to make sure you are filled with happiness today?

Brooke Collins has a passion to help clients discover how to take responsibility for their health and gain awareness about their emotional wellness using a holistic approach targeting the mind, body, and spirit. Find more wellness blogs on her website.





Image courtesy of Radu Florin.