By Jodie Gould, author of High
By understanding that the search for pleasure and escape is a universal drive, we can acknowledge these urges while pursuing healthier forms of recreation and better ways to relieve pain, depression, or hardship. Avoiding mood-altering chemicals does not mean we are doomed to a life of mirthless deprivation. I’m pleased to report that natural highs are not only abundantly available but better, stronger, cheaper, and longer lasting than the ones we get from alcohol or drugs.
The nearly 500 people surveyed or interviewed for my book spoke lovingly about some of their favorite natural highs, which included socializing and celebrating with friends and family, laughing, meditating, praying or getting in touch with their spiritual side, physical intimacy, engaging in some kind of exercise or sport, dancing, singing, volunteering, flying a plane, and for one woman, swinging on a trapeze! These guilt-free highs are all part of what I call the six Pleasure Principles: Move, Restore, Connect, Create, Celebrate, and Give. There are more than six, of course, but let’s call this a short list for finding bliss. If you want more guilt-free pleasure in your life (and who doesn’t?) you can try the following:
Jump for Joy
Jumping rope is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get those mood-boosting endorphins. Make sure your downstairs neighbors are away if you live in an apartment, and don’t jump on carpet, grass, or asphalt. Your best bet is a wood floor or an impact mat made for exercise available at a sporting goods store. Also buy a pair of good athletic shoes (preferably cross trainers) because jumping can put a lot of stress on your calf, ankles, and legs.
In a world rife with quick fixes, magic pills, crash diets, and get-rich-quick schemes, it’s nice to know there is a scientifically proven practice that can truly change your life (or at least produce dramatic effects) in as little as 20 minutes a day. Yogis and researchers agree: meditating, which involves unplugging, deep breathing, and mind-clearing—relaxes the brain, reduces anxiety, and decreases depression.
Bond with Family, Friends, and Community
Studies have shown that feeling a part of a family, circle of friends, and community (e.g. workplace, religious, social, or political group) throughout our lifetime helps stave off depression and, of course, loneliness.
Lift Your Voice (and Spirit) in Song
Singing is unquestionably a way to relieve anxiety, especially if it’s upbeat music (think “Happy” by Pharrell Williams). If you don’t have the vocal chops of Pharrell, stick to the shower or karaoke machine. Those blessed with the ability to stay in tune and on pitch might consider joining a choir, a community chorus (school, local theater troupe, etc), or a rock or hip-hip group. The garage is a perfectly fine venue.
Celebrating important milestones in one’s life can actually help strengthen relationships. If you are having problems with your spouse or partner, taking the time to celebrate together will bring back memories of those happier times. Talking about the good times, including romantic dates and fun vacations will remind you why you fell in love in the first place and forget the annoying way he chews with his mouth open. (Can you tell I’ve been married for a while?)
Volunteer for a Charity
Giving increases our self-confidence and self esteem and encourages friendships that buffer us against stress. Sign up to become a Big Sister or Big Brother, work at your local food bank, or go on a charity walk or bike ride for a disease or cause you believe in (you’re not only giving you are also moving, so you get two Pleasure Principles in one.)
About the author
Jodie Gould is an award-winning writer and author of nine books. Her new book, HIGH: Six Principles for Guilt-Free Pleasure and Escape (Hazelden), will be released on April 28. Her articles have appeared in Woman's Day and Family Circle, and she wrote a monthly column for Showtime.com. Gould has been interviewed on numerous TV and radio shows, including Oprah, CNN, and Extra.