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Bring Pleasure Into Your Life

One of the primary symptoms of depression (and some other mood disorders), is the inability to experience pleasure, known in clinical circles as "anhedonia." When one is extremely depressed, the capacity for (and the memory of) pleasure vanishes. One way to remedy this situation (especially when your symptoms are less intense) is to consciously participate in activities that produce pleasure. When we do something pleasurable, mood enhancing chemicals are released in the brain. Therefore, part of your recovery program will involve systematically scheduling pleasurable activities into your life. To begin the process, ask yourself:

"What activities can I think of that are enjoyable to me, that used to be enjoyable, or might be enjoyable?"

Examples might include eating a good meal, working in the garden, nurturing a pet, spending time with friends, going to a movie, taking a leisurely walk in the park, going sailing, watching a sunset or sunrise, etc. If you don't feel motivated you might ask another person to join you in the activity. Moving through resistance is usually easier when we have support. Once you engage in a pleasurable behavior, the good feelings that result will naturally motivate you to repeat the activity. Eventually, participating in the activity will become self-reinforcing.

Another way to experience pleasurable feelings is to create "a library of positive memories." Make a list of the happiest moments of your life. Then, go back in time and relive them, using your five senses to recreate, in exquisite detail, those positive experiences. Because the brain cannot differentiate between a real or imagined experience, its neurochemicals will take on the same mood-enhancing configuration as they did when the original events occurred. When you are feeling a bit low or need some inspiration, you can re-experience those pleasant memories in the present.

The following are some ideas for activities that can help you to bring more joy and pleasure into your life:

  1. Go for a walk
  2. Share a hug with a loved one
  3. Watch the sunrise/sunset  
  4. Watch a  funny movie
  5. Tell a funny joke  
  6. Listen to relaxing music
  7. Receive a massage  
  8. Take a warm bath
  9. Sit in a hot tub  
  10. Play a musical instrument
  11. See a special play    
  12. Spend time in the garden
  13. Drive to the beach  
  14. Swim, float, wade in the water
  15. Pet an animal
  16. Treat yourself to a nutritious meal
  17. Talk to a friend 
  18. Attend a favorite sports event
  19. Create with clay/pottery 
  20. Make a bouquet of flowers
  21. Make a collage 
  22. Draw/paint a picture
  23. Go sailing or canoeing
  24. Go on a your favorite hike
  25. Hug a tree 
  26. Go star gazing
  27. Play golf or tennis 
  28. Jump on a trampoline
  29. Ride a bike 
  30. Read a special novel or magazine
  31. Enjoy a good cup of tea 
  32. Visit a museum/art gallery
  33. Watch the clouds 
  34. Go on a camping trip
  35. Practice deep breathing 
  36. Do a gentle stretch
  37. Spend time with a friend 
  38. Attend a concert
  39. Enjoy the beauty of nature
  40. Write in your journal
  41. Go bird watching  
  42. Take a vacation
  43. Rent a good video  
  44. Do aerobics/dance 
  45. Do yoga
  46. Think of something you are grateful for
  47. Think of an enjoyable memory
  48. Repeat a favorite affirmation
  49. Buy yourself a special gift

Read this list over and pick at least one activity to do today.  (You can also pick one of your own choosing that is not on the list). In addition, you can write some of the activities down in your own journal for future reference. See if you can schedule one to three of these activities a week.

Making a conscious choice to bring pleasure into your life is a powerful way to change your mood and enhance the quality of your life.

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