David Godot, Psy.D.

How To Enjoy The Simple Pleasures

A nice, relaxed meal; a slow walk on a sunny spring day; time alone with loved ones. It’s an accepted wisdom that the little things in life are often the most enjoyable. The more you allow yourself to stay in the moment and focus in on the simple pleasures, the better your overall quality of life will be. We all know this already.

The problem lies in trying to remember this simple truth in the midst of all of life’s craziness. Most of us have so much going on in our lives that it seems like all we can do to keep our focus on the deadlines we have to meet, the objectives we have to reach, and the expectations we have to live up to. On top of that, most of us find ourselves surrounded by people who are at least as preoccupied with these things as we are, which reinforces our focus squarely on those things which have the least chance of making us happy right now, in this moment.

The strategy outlined below will help you to structure your life around those little things that really matter, while still allowing you to accomplish all of the things you want to accomplish. In fact, following this strategy will actually increase your ability to get things done. You’ll be able to feel happier and more focused knowing that you will be properly rewarded for your efforts not just in some distant future, but right away! When we feel fulfilled, the work we do toward future goals feels more satisfying; it loses the desperate quality of work that comes from an unfulfilled and desperate place.

Plan ahead to really enjoy this next experience

We’re often simpler creatures than we give ourselves credit for. One of the main components in having any type of experience that you want to have is simply planning to have that experience. You have to lay it out in no uncertain terms so that your conscious and unconscious processes can all get on the same page.

If you keep a to-do list or a day-planner, add in time specifically set aside for enjoying the simple pleasures in your life. Do this even if you already know you’re going to be doing them. If you know you’ll have only 15 minutes for lunch, pencil yourself in. 12:00-12:15 Enjoy a breather with a nice quick lunch. By planning it out this way, you give yourself permission to take that 15 minutes and enjoy it, rather than rushing through it on your way to something else.

If you’re like me, you don’t have any kind of cohesive calendaring system, and that’s fine too. When you’re about to take that cigarette break, or that 20 minutes to futz around with your MySpace page, or that half hour before bed to just unwind, don’t be afraid to talk to yourself. Say, “Okay, great. Now I’ll have this many minutes to just enjoy this nice cool spring breeze with this beautiful glass of wine.” Be descriptive, sell yourself on it. It’s not just a meal break, it’s free time to enjoy a luscious meal.

Use the reward system to overcome procrastination

When all you’re feeling is the stress of having to get something done, it becomes much more difficult to focus on doing what you need to do. You can reduce this effect and allow yourself some moments of pure and simple pleasure by planning your reward. It shouldn’t be anything fancy—new research actually shows that the promise of big rewards tends to reduce productivity. It’s the little things that we really crave, and so that’s exactly what you should promise yourself as soon as you finish your task. And follow through on your promise!

Plan what you’ll do afterward to know you deserve this time for yourself

Really busy people often complain that they can’t enjoy their free time because they feel guilty over all the things they’re not getting done. Believe me, I can identify. A nice way to overcome this feeling is by not only marking out your time that is specifically for enjoyment, but also planning what productive thing you’re going to do when you’re done.

One of the key experiences of this relaxation guilt is the flight of ideas about all the things you could or should be doing. A lot of the time this is because you’re so used to having a plan of action that you’re not quite sure how to step outside of that. So don’t fight it! Let yourself be whatever you will be, and make your plan for action and get it all settled before you begin relaxing, so that you can be absolutely sure you’ll be fresh and ready to go when the time comes.

Post a comment about the simple pleasures that you enjoy the most, and the ways you find to cram them into your busy life.