Everything in life that is pleasurable will kill us slowly, but nothing will kill us quicker than having no pleasure at all.
That’s the approach of prominent Australian positive psychologist Dr Happy, who advocates for us to enjoy the things in our life that bring us joy and meaning, while at the same time, not getting too carried away.
I’m in full agreement with him on this.
Enjoying our guilty pleasures is, in my opinion, a fundamental part of ensuring holistic wellness. Having such indulgences and allowances has been incredibly important in my own journey with mental health struggles and helped me get through certain low points of the last seven years.
The best example I have of this is when I discovered the MTV reality TV show Geordie Shore which is, objectively, incredibly trashy. It is – without doubt – vacuous and mind-numbing.
But that’s what I loved about it. In mid-2012, when my anxiety and depression was at its worst, my roommate of the time suggested I watch the show with him, as he thought it would make me laugh. He was right.
After a few episodes, I discovered that laughing at this silly show, and having a smile put back on my face, was but one more way through which I could feel better about my life and recovery from my ill-health. By no means was it a magic solution, but it was a helpful indulgence that assisted in getting me through.
Here are some suggestions for enjoying your pleasurable activities, guilt-free:
It offers a light at the end of the tunnel
The weekend exists for a reason: we need a break! Having those two days off helps to recharge the batteries and refresh so that when we come back into work the following Monday, we’re feeling ready to go again.
The same logic is true for guilty pleasures such as having a block of chocolate. It is, of course, important to eat healthy food. But having the occasional treat serves as a nice reward for our hard work, ensures we can enjoy our food, and gives us the impetus to keep going.
They’re necessary to help you unwind and relax
If you keep pushing yourself at a million miles an hour, you’re not going to see the results you desire, as you run the risk of burnout. Taking proper time to step back, reflect and veg out is fundamental, I feel, to staying on top of our goals.
Watching a trashy TV show, or rereading Harry Potter for the umpteenth time, can be a great way to let our minds switch off and disconnect, so that when we do need to engage again, we’ve had a bit of time to just be.
Moderation is a must
Of course, having guilty pleasures in our lives does not mean we should be doing them all the time. Eating a block of chocolate regularly won’t be great for our physical health, nor will watching trashy TV stimulate us intellectually.
But doing these things sporadically does no damage to our overall holistic health and wellbeing, and – as noted above – can actually be helpful in that it allows us to disconnect where necessary and unwind properly.
Self-compassion is key
Being overly strict on yourself is a recipe for disaster, in my experience, as self-inflicted pressure only serves to increase our stress and anxiety.
Don’t make things any more complicated than they need to be. Be kind to yourself and take baby steps when required. So long as you’re self-aware about the state of your health and wellbeing, and can be responsible for it, you shouldn’t have to be so disciplined that you neglect to treat yourself.
You deserve it!
You’re allowed to have some fun! Health and wellness won’t mean much to you if you’re not also happy and enjoying your life.
Treating myself with some guilty pleasures is a great avenue through which I can take stock of where I’m at with my goals and bring some more light into my weekly schedule. When you work hard at your wellness, you can afford to have such indulgences.
Jerome Doraisamy is a journalist at Wellness Daily and author of The Wellness Doctrines book series.