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Enjoying the simple pleasures (why it is hard and how to do it)

We all want to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.  This is something I get emailed on often or something that comes up in coaching- particularly the ability to enjoy the simple pleasures in your life. 

 

When you start to do it, you see it is powerful. When you can enjoy all the simple components that make up your day to day, you feel in control of enjoying your life without taking drastic steps to alter it, make it more different, better, bearable. 

 

When you can enjoy the simple pleasures you don’t walk around wishing your life was different, or you were different

– well, we still do but a lot less and in a lot healthier ways. 

Prefer to listen_ This post is also availble on the podcast. Click here for the episode

A few months ago I bought some nice soap from LUSH, which is a company that makes natural fresh soaps and shampoos and bath bombs. I love their products, they are fresh and natural and look like candy. 

 

So I bought myself some nice soap. It smells like lemon, in the best way. It has little scrubby things in it. It feels good. I just love it. 

 

And you know that feeling when you choose something from the store (online), you bring it home (from the mail), and you use it for the first time. It is an experience I get to enjoy in my own home doing something mundane like showering. 

 

When we buy a product we are either buying the promise or the EXPERIENCE

 

And we all know the promise can sometimes fall flat. 

 

The perfect set of bamboo bowls cracked in the dishwasher

The face serum didn’t erase 12 years off my face

So weird. 

 

But here I am with my soap and this time, I stopped and I told myself. 

I want to love this every time I use it, the same way I love it now.

 

Because I know this is the struggle in our relationship to things, and experiences and people. 

 

The shine wears off. 

 

Why does it wear off? Am I broken that I can’t be as happy with my fancy soap on day one as I am on day 17?

 

Why does someone get all they want, the house, the car, the job, the hair cut, the work bonus and the shine wears off?

 

Soon the things we’ve bought have piled up in our basement. We go and buy new soap to make us feel fancy again (even though we have perfectly good soap in the bathroom cupboard). We complain about the house. We set our sights on the next work bonus that might come our way. 

 

We become apathetic to all we have.

Like everything that was good enough isn’t now.

 

I know this is feeling like a bummer, but I want to use this reality to help us shift a place where we can maintain our appreciation and enjoyment of our actual life. 

Because I think the enjoyment of life can be achieved and I believe it can so much simpler than we make it to be.  

 

I believe so firmly that simple pleasures and perfect moments are available to us every single day if we can practice seeking them and being present in them. 

 

So I think if we want to be women who enjoy that cozy spot in our home, and moms who enjoy Saturday mornings with our kids, and wives who enjoy sitting in the dim evening light with our husband at the dining table while we catch up and ladies who enjoy their fancy soap until it is little slivers you press back together tightly in your hand  – then it is worth understanding that the SHINE wearing off is so innately normal. 

 

Side note, do they make a little soap press machine for frugal people like me who want to put all the soap puzzle pieces back together to get another week out of it?

 

So, the shine wears off. We are normal!

 

And we know we are normal because psychologists told us the name of this phenomenon. 

 

It is called Hedonic Adaptation. 

The psych term for the situation of getting something we thought would make us happier and in the end, we are back where we started emotionally speaking. We adapt back to our baseline, they say. We were extremely happy for a while, then we normalized back to our standard level of happiness. Which might feel like, not totally happy, to some of us. 

 

I guess when I think about this from a life coaching point of view, it is because we still bring our brain with us wherever we go. Our brain, and all its thoughts and stories and autopilot and subconscious thinking. That brain is still there thinking its thoughts and those thoughts create our emotional experience. 

 

So if you are feeling like ‘all these things should have made me happy and I’m still not happy I must be broken, or my life must be broken, or someone in my life is broken’ let’s just put that story to rest. Your brain is working exactly the way it is supposed to. 

We are supposed to equalize to a baseline. 

And there are actual reasons for it. 

 

Equalizing means we stop living off dopamine and serotonin, and all the other feel-good hormones and our body can recalibrate and make use of all the other chemicals and hormones we need in our day to day life. 

Because if you are floating around on a cloud all day you kind of stop showing up for the real actual stuff of your life. Which was probably a necessary requirement to survive on the earth years and years ago, but now it’s a modernized problem. We need to temper the enjoyment of life with the reality of life. 

 

Normalizing to baseline also helps us see the next place we can uplevel in our lives.  Isn’t this amazing that we as humans are capable and designed to continually improve? It isn’t a one-time, that’s as far as you get/the success you get/the happiness available to you – it is a journey

 

Getting back to a baseline can also be fear-based too. Our brain is worried we will miss some possible danger, ‘this is too good to be true’, ‘something is around the corner’. I know this is how my brain works. I’m sitting on the beach enjoying the sun with my family and this creepy sea monster starts swimming in my brain whispering, ‘This won’t last. Don’t let down your guard….. Maybe it’s time to go.’ It is hard for me to stay in that moment and trust it. 

 

See what I mean about bringing our brains with us wherever we go?

 

It is a dance between allowing ourselves to experience the good rather than run from it. And likewise, experience the negative rather than try to hustle for happiness. 

 

When it comes to enjoying the simple pleasures of your life, we know that it is available. We have had moments that were so simple and enjoyable. And these are often the moments we didn’t plan or concoct or force.  Maybe coffee by the river with your besties, or having tea from uour fave mug, or listening to the quiet hum of the dryer while the house is sleeping at night. 

 

Simple pleasures are already happening; we just don’t always see them or appreciate them. 

A big reason is that there are some thought traps that come up for us in giving ourselves permission to enjoy our simple pleasures. 

I’ve been talking about thought traps lately. These are something I teach in the LOPA on each monthly topic. Thought traps are the thoughts you think, the stories you tell yourself,  that keep you stuck where you are.

Your thoughts dictate your emotions and we are all acting from our emotions.

So paying attention to your thoughts is the most important thing you can do to change your experience of your life and the emotion with which you are experiencing your life 

 

One major thought trap to enjoying the simple pleasures of your life is feeling like you don’t want to approve of your life. 

 

This is the situation where you say ‘if I enjoy this, then I am basically saying I approve of it, but how can I approve of something I want to change?”

 

Like, I’m not ok with how my parents are acting, how can I enjoy them?

I’m not ok with my house, it’s a mess and I want to change everything, how can I enjoy it?

I’m not ok with my kids or my husband, they aren’t acting how I approve of, if I enjoy them then they will think I approve of what they are doing. 

 

And this is something I life coach on often because it can be hard for us to see that acceptance of our life is not necessarily our approval of it. 

 

If we want to find contentment in our lives, we first need the acceptance of what is. 

 

Like I can accept sickness in a loved one, but it doesn’t mean I approve of it. I can accept that someone close to me is making a choice she thinks is best but I don’t approve of it. I can accept my husband has a different opinion than me and my approval or lack thereof can’t change the situation.  

 

None of these situations means that we relent, we submit, we approve. No, acceptance says ‘this is what it is, and though I wish it were different, I accept that it is present’ and contentment says ‘even if I want to change it, I can still show up without a chip on my shoulder, I can still find what joy is available to me’

 

This thought trap of ‘accepting is approving – and I do not approve so I cannot accept’ can keep you from getting through the first door: acceptance, which can keep you from the next door: contentment.

 

Because contentment is available to you.

 

It is available in the simple things you enjoy, the simple conversations, the simple experiences. 

 

When I think of simple pleasures I look a lot to the mindset of HYGGE. 

 

If you haven’t heard of Hygge (hoogah) it is the danish word with no direct english translation but it is centered around coziness, contentment, and connectedness with others and nature

It isn’t fuzzy socks and blankets and candles, it is a mindset they approach their life with. 

With coziness – creating a feeling of home and a place of welcoming wherever you are

With contentment – enjoying the simplest things available to you. Simple hobbies, simple treats, simple gatherings. When you keep things simple you get a chance to appreciate simple

With connectedness – going slow, listening, staying present. 

 

If you are interested, you can listen to episode 38 for a rundown of hygge and how it compares to minimalism. 

These mindsets will help you to slow down a bit more and take off the filter you are looking through your life at. We all are looking at our life through filters and a common one i  the filter of what is missing. 

 

The aim is to enjoy your actual life – that is my mission in all I do, to help you work through the clutter of your home and mind and enjoy what is actually happening in your life. 

 

So as we get excited about new things, fun people, great experiences and that excitement tapers off and we feel like we are just back to our normal state – whatever that feels like to you – that we can practice little ways to keep enjoying our actual life. 

 

As shared in this study, the solution to the shine wearing off is two-fold: VARIETY and APPRECIATION

 

Variety – try doing the same thing in a different way. 

My kids are masters at this – they want a picnic outside, they want to make a mega blanket bed to watch a movie, they want to take a different route to school. 

This helps your brain see new things and creates a novel experience from the same situation. 

 

And appreciation

Ever since Oprah taught us about gratitude we’ve had nothing but evidence that it works.  And it does. 

Searching for the positive is a practice that might be foreign to your brain. Especially if you have gotten really good at seeing the negative. (Our brain gets really good at what it always does)

I think it shows an even more fascinating situation where we think, as a culture, that it is ok to grumble and complain about our lives. Maybe, we even call it ‘authentic’. 

But if we see the bright side, if we find contentment, then we are naive?

Maybe some people are being naive, but these people are still ones who find VALUE in the things and situations and people right in front of them. 

 

If all we focus on is wanting to change things –  our kitchen, our job, our spouses, our lack of fancy soap – then we have blocked our acceptance, our contentment and we have disqualified the value of what IS There. 

 

Just because I enjoyed it and now I don’t, does it not still have value?

Because everything does have value.

 

When we stop appreciating something, it loses its value to us. 

So then we treat it differently. 

 

Appreciation is the answer. 

 

As a side note, I want to talk about decluttering here. Many of you are here because you are at some stage of decluttering in your home and you know this has been my journey too. 

One thing I have learned about simple pleasures is I NEEDED to declutter to make space for me to enjoy them. I needed to make decisions about what brought me genuine value in my actual current life, and let things go when they didn’t. 

This still honoured the value of these things, letting them go to someone else who will appreciate them. 

I’m not saying go and love and value all your clutter and all your stuff and you will enjoy your life. No, I’m encouraging you to make space for you to value things that matter to you.

Just like we need to declutter our minds from the thoughts that make it hard to enjoy our life, we can declutter our space from the distractions and excess that keep us from it. So we can have space to enjoy our life and the life we want to build into. 

 

Back to my soap. I’m in the shower and my fancy soap is falling apart, it is almost gone. I’ve had a conscious practice of loving my soap. And I still take a minute to smell it and appreciate and thank my past self for buying it for me. 

 

If we can do this with soap, imagine how far we can take this in our lives. 

 

We can savour our lives. 

We can savour the enjoyment we get from our things, from people and experiences. 

And when the shine wears off we can look for new ways to experience them, and look for new ways to appreciate their value. 

 

I hope this has encouraged you to view things a bit differently and helped you to see how you can show up a little different and enjoy your actual life. 

 

As I mentioned thought traps here, I want to tell you about a webinar I’m hosting on June 25th 2020 at 11amPST about the ALL OR NOTHING thought trap – this is one of the most invasive ones and almost every coaching call I have in LOPA we cover this thought trap. It can be found in everything from our marriage to our health, to our parenting. It’s the thought trap of ‘if it can’t be 100, then it’s zero’ and we don’t see all of the possibilities from 1-99. 

You can sign up for the ALL OR NOTHING webinar, right here. 

 

 

 

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