I’m really not a fan of the term “guilty pleasures.” It implies that we should feel bad about the things that feel good.
The idea that things that feel good are bad for us has caused enough secrecy, suffering, and guilt.
I think it’s time for us to own what feels good as good for us.
Why? Because pleasure releases a molecule in the body called nitric oxide, which actually improves our health by signaling our cells to do things like increase our blood flow. (I learned all about this from my mom, Dr. Christiane Northrup, who wrote extensively about this science in her book The Secret Pleasures of Menopause. It applies to us all, women and men, no matter our age.)
When we consciously pursue pleasure, we reduce stress. When we reduce stress, our body can hang out in rest-and-restore land instead of fight-or-flight.
The pursuit of pleasure, therefore, must be part of your health regimen.
Dr. Mario Martinez did a study of over 700 healthy centenarians (people over 100 years old) around the world to see what they had in common. There were 5 key health-giving characteristics that they all shared.
The one that stuck out to me most was that they indulged in daily rituals of pleasure like savoring a glass of wine, a cigar, a brownie, or a small scotch.
All of these indulgences would be pegged a “guilty pleasure.” But Dr. Martinez found that these rituals of pleasure were actually contributing to their health instead of depleting it.
Let’s be clear, these healthy centenarians were not binge drinking and blacking out, stuffing themselves into a food coma, or chain smoking.
Mindless indulgence depletes our vitality. But mindful pleasure enhances it.
So what have you dubbed your “guilty pleasures?” Might it be time to reframe them and drop the guilt?
I bet if we stopped feeling guilty for pleasure and were brave enough to shine light on what brings us pleasure instead of hiding it, we’d be more mindful about it.
Instead of needing two chocolate bars to fulfill our craving, being present to the pleasure of a square or two would do it.
Instead of drinking so much that we can’t remember last night, we could slowly savor one small premium glass of whisky to ensure we remember every last drop.
I bet if we honored our pleasures instead of feeling guilty about them they wouldn’t turn into compulsions.
Honor what brings you pleasure.
Indulge in it with your full presence.
Stop calling things guilty pleasures and embrace that there’s no need to feel bad about feeling good.
Owning your pleasures mindfully may just help you live healthily past the age of one hundred. And even if it doesn’t, you’ll make the most out of the years you’ve got. And that’s what it’s all about anyway.
What are you ready to give up as a “guilty pleasure” to allow it to simply be a pleasure? What rituals of savoring do you enjoy or would you like to enjoy? Let me know in the comments!
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