Updated: Aug 26
So many of us don’t regularly experience our full pleasure potential. We live in a society that is always trying to sell us “more”. Show us how our lives could be better. Tell us how it is lacking in pleasure. Leave us craving the next hit of dopamine. We waste precious, present moments because we are busy thinking about how they could be better. Or how someone else might have it better. Or what the next thing is.
I, like many, have spent much of my life not experiencing as much pleasure as I could, or even as much as I wanted to. I denied myself pleasure because I didn’t think I was deserving. I would only allow myself pleasure AFTER I completed all the “to-dos”. Because of shame around pleasure. Because pleasure wasn’t “productive”, and felt frivolous or selfish.
When I started developing chronic pain & digestive issues in my twenties, my relationship with pleasure grew even more distant. To truly experience pleasure, one needs to be in their body. But as someone who had started trying to spend a lot of time out of my body (because it was uncomfortable to be in it), pleasure became less accessible.
Because pleasure and pain are so closely connected, when we learn to avoid pain (emotional and physical), we learn to avoid pleasure as well.
I’m not sure when this desire to experience more pleasure shifted for me. Maybe it was when I turned 30 and my hormones seemed to change and I had the sex drive of a 16 year-old boy. Maybe it was when I finished school, and finally left an unhealthy and unhappy long-term relationship. Maybe it was when I started having sex with new people. But somehow I began to realize- I had been needlessly denying myself pleasure.
All the things I was doing that I didn’t want to do but thought I should, all the people pleasing, all the denying of sexual desires because I thought they were too much, or I was too much. All the fun I didn’t allow myself to have. All the orgasms I never had. All the experiences of just being in my body, fully: feeling sun on my face, cool water on my skin, sweetness on my lips, lovers’ hands on my body.
And for what? What was I so afraid of?
Life is too short.
For the last few years, I have been on a journey; a pleasure journey. A journey to reconnect to my body and to my desires.
I’m still on it the journey, but what I have already learned is that the way to more sexual pleasure in your life is to experience more pleasure in your day-to-day life. And the way to more day-to-day pleasure is to practice being in your body more, something I had spent a lot of time trying to get outside of.
So, here are a few "pleasure habits" I have learned and practiced that have helped me experience more pleasure in my life (including in the bedroom) that might help you up your pleasure game, if you so desire.
1. Write a pleasure list
Yes, you heard me. A pleasure list. Maybe you have heard me talk about this before. Write out all the things you find pleasurable. All the things. Sex, food, sleep, road-trips, sunsets. All of it. And don't forget the little things like, fresh sheets and tea on a rainy day, etc. Keep that list handy.
2. Schedule your pleasure
Actually schedule pleasure in your planner. Like actually. Not that we can plan all of our pleasure, but if we don't actively make time for it in our day-to-day lives, we will experience far less pleasure. So many of us will put pleasure off until we get everything done on our to do list. But what happens is that this list is often so long, that we never get to pleasure. The To-Dos will never end. Make sure you are dedicating some time (even 10-15 mins) to pleasure every day. Schedule that shit in. Your life will thank you for it.
3. Get Clear on What is Getting in the Way of Pleasure
In order to experience more pleasure, we must understand to what could be getting in the way. I highly suggest journaling about it. Notice where in your life you are denying yourself pleasure. Where do you consistently do things you don't want to do? Say yes when you want to say no? Or no when you want to say yes?
Spend some time answering these questions:
What is getting in the way of experiencing pleasure?
What feelings do I associate with certain pleasurable activities (shame and guilt tend to come up a lot)
Where and how do I deny myself pleasure?
What would I like to experience but am not?
4. Get Present
So often what can keep us from experiencing true pleasure is being too much in our heads and not in our experience (or our bodies).
There is a lot of pleasure to be experienced when we slow down and get present.
This is hard for most of us. We are on autopilot. Busy, busy, busy. Always thinking about the next thing, what we need to make for dinner, what time our kid has practice and how we are getting them there, making lists, etc. But it can keep us from accessing pleasure. Have you ever driven or arrived somewhere and realized that you have no recollection of actually getting there because you were so wrapped up in your thoughts the whole time? Think about all the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, etc. that you missed because you were lost in thought (or totally zoned out). This happens to all of us once in awhile, but if this is a regular occurrence for you, working on being present will be all the more important.
One helpful practice to experience more pleasure is to SLOW DOWN.
Can you notice what is around you? Colours, smells, sounds?
Make this a daily practice and I swears it will change your life (in all kinds of positive ways). Meditation is great for training the mind to be quiet. I find yoga helpful for getting present and focusing on just my breath and sensations in my body. If those aren't your speed, there are other ways to practice mindfulness as well. One thing I find that can help is to narrate what you are doing (either in your head or out-loud) while you are trying to be more present. This could be in the shower, while cooking, on a walk. Describe the colours, the smells, the textures, the sounds. It really forces you to be present.
Another activity you can try is '5 senses'. So name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste. Sit in each of them for a few seconds. Really experience them.
Presence is pleasure.
Personally I have struggled with this one. We live in a society that teaches us that our worth is determined by our productivity. Busy is some type of currency. But what if we started viewing rest as productive? And I'm not just talking getting enough sleep (though also SUPER important to experiencing pleasure and just overall health). I'm talking about taking breaks from productivity. From doing. To just let all the goodness of everything you do and have, sink in. Rest is essential to recharge, for cell regrowth, for vitality, and of course, for experiencing pleasure.
Not only is resting pleasurable itself (if not accompanied with feelings of guilt, shame, etc.), but it is essential in reducing stress. When we are less stressed, we are more open to experience all the wonderful pleasure chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin. Inversely, experiencing these "feel good" chemicals, you are reducing stress & anxiety. It is a win-win cycle.
So can you schedule in some rest time? Even 10 or 15 mins. Read. Nap. Stare out the window. Say "no" to something you don't want to do. Whatever. Ask yourself: What does my body need? How does it feel to allow myself a bit of space to rest? What happens in my body? Am I resisting it? What feels good?
Obviously, I am biased, but I think dance is super helpful in moving through emotions physically, working things out, and just getting more connected to our bodies and our experiences in them.
I highly suggest including dance in your week (or day if possible). Any type of dance can work, but ecstatic dance can be really great for just "feeling into your body". I suggest a minimum of 5 min.
"Ecstatic dance is a form of dance in which the dancers, sometimes without the need to follow specific steps, abandon themselves to the rhythm and move freely as the music takes them, leading to trance and a feeling of ecstasy"
--Good ol' Wikipedia
So, put on some music and try moving your body in ways it wants to move. Don't worry about how it looks. Just be present in how it feels. Enjoy the movement. Explore. Play. You aren't trying to look a certain way or do a certain thing. You are just trying to move in ways your body wants to. Whatever feels good.
I had a lot of aversion to this type of dance at first, being used to focusing on choreography for so long. But I wanted to do this with my students in order for them to feel the music and practice being in their bodies and moving in ways that felt good. So in order to ask others to do it, I had to do it myself. It may feel a bit strange at first but doesn’t take that long to feel comfortable. Just let go of control.
7. Feel Your Emotions
This one is tough but so important. I talk about this all.the.time. Numbing out is not selective. If you block yourself off from experiencing negative emotions, you block yourself off from feeling the positive ones too, including pleasure. I know this from personal experience.
One practice is just naming your emotions as they come up (and identifying the thought that caused them). What is that emotion? What does it feel like in your body?
And say to yourself, “Okay, I am just going to feel ______ emotion.” It won’t harm you. Ultimately, it is just a sensation in your body. Just allow yourself to feel what it feels like in your body (resist going to your thoughts) and follow that sensation as it moves around your body. I find, more often than not, the intensity of negative emotions lessens when I give it the space it needs.
Play is pleasure’s close cousin. Play has no purpose, no goal, other than to be fun and feel good. There is no finished product. No concerns about productivity. Just a conduit to joy and pleasure.
"Play gets you in touch with now, with the happiness to be found in the present moment. When you are playing and having fun, you are only focused on what is happening right in front of you. Playtime wakes you up to the joy of living. And play isn’t limited to games or sports. Art, music, and all forms of creative expression, such as cooking, quilting, building, tinkering, even work, can be play" ( https://livingwellcounselling.ca/importance-pleasure-play/)
So make more time for play (put that in your scheduler too). Spend time playing like you did as a kid. Build a fort. Or a snowman. Or play hide n seek. Whatever. Children and animals are great teachers. Again, let go of control. If you’re worried about looking cool, you’re missing the point.
This is one of my favourite ways to experience pleasure. And there is no better way to get to know what you like, what your preferences are, and the best ways for you to achieve an orgasm. So not only does it feel good, but it is key to experiencing more pleasure in your sex life.
In an attempt to expand pleasure, I invite you to try masturbating once in a while in new ways. Take out the goal of orgasm and just spend some allotted time exploring what kind of touch feels good in your body. Most of us have a "routine" that we know will get us off. Try something different. Explore different touch, pressure, positions, toys, rhythms, etc. If it brings you to orgasm, great. If not, no worries. That is not the point. The point is to experience pleasure. Essentially you are on a pleasure treasure hunt. How can you experience new pleasure? How can you expand your pleasure? How can you be truly present in your pleasure?
Sometimes if I find myself getting distracted or too focused on orgasm, I use the word "pleasure" to bring me back and remind myself that the goal is just to experience pleasure.
If you want to read more about my experience trying to masturbate everyday and in new ways, you can do so here.
Also a favourite. A simple one, but an excellent way to experience pleasure. I think it is important to experience good food on the regular. Like truly experience. Without shame. At least once a week, make yourself or buy, or have someone make you food you love. Eat it mindfully. Presently. Smell it. Talk to it. Do a little dance (I unknowingly do a wiggle dance when I eat really good food). Appreciate the color of it. What does it taste like when it hits your tongue? What is the texture? How do you feel when you eat it?
This is about experiencing pleasure. Not about what you "should" or "shouldn't" be eating. It is about eating something you enjoy. It is about the fact the YOU DESERVE TO EXPERIENCE PLEASURE. It is your goddamn birthright. Babies don't have shame around experiencing pleasure. It's a learned behaviour. This is about being present. Experiencing the senses. Get dressed up if you like. Put on music. Eat in a nice spot. In the company of people you like. Eat like it is your last meal.
So, there you have it folks, my top 10 "pleasure habits" to up your pleasure game. This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it is a start. I’ve noticed a real change in my life since I started implementing these habits. More pleasure, more joy, and more gratitude. And who doesn't want more of that good stuff in their life?
So write your list. Schedule that shit in. Start getting comfortable with the thought that you deserve pleasure. Get present. Be willing to feel your feels. And get started on your “road to pleasure”.