There have been many times in my life where I’ve felt the realization that I don’t enjoy anything. There were times that felt awful and times that didn’t but for years nothing felt over the baseline of existence.
I’ve been on my diet for a month now and one unexpected effect is it made me enjoy eating. Which I know is something other people enjoy quite naturally. I’ve always eaten like a hedonist – I’ve always chosen the supposedly sinful foods over the supposedly clean but I didn’t really notice that I never cared. Eventually I was just eating peanut butter sandwiches everyday because nothing in the realm of food mattered to me.
Once I started working out I learned how to not work out, what to do in recovery time to prevent the soreness and injuries that come with really any lifestyle change. And eating was part of that.
As a result I came to enjoy food because I wasn’t doing it for enjoyment, it had my most desired of all notions – purpose. Eating became rewarding because it was part of something bigger.
My mind is now focused on eating for nutrition during the week and then gets to cut lose and eat for pleasure on the weekend. And I enjoy both. Because of how dopamine works you’ll notice that you often feel better looking forward to something than after you’ve actually gotten it. Most of the time in life – Anticipation is the reward. Enjoying food isn’t about constant hedonism, it’s about perspective.
I do the same thing in squash. Whenever I’m on a streak of bad returns I will mentally drop everything, physically relax, and take pleasure in the game, the room, the friends, everything… my life, I take pleasure in the skill of my opponent, the sound of the game. The enjoyment of the game is the game itself, not it’s consequences.
I wrote before about the Done Vs Doing problem, admitting the difference between things you like to do and things you want or need to get done. I think being aware of that difference let’s you eliminate that difference. If you want the dishes done then being mindful let’s you take pleasure in the fact that you’re doing them, they are getting done. Congratulate yourself one scrub at a time.
Movies and Television have fallen onto the wrong side of the Done Vs Doing problem. People say they have to see this movie, or haven’t seen this movie yet, they’ll get around to watching this show. This is the language of chores. And it’s because the producers in the medium learned they can hook us better with empty ongoing plot than they can with high level writing or directing. Watch any Hitchcock movie and notice how many times you think what a wonderful shot, then watch a marvel movie and notice that you never think that.
I think it’s a flaw in our culture that we try to distract our way to pleasure. Everyone’s accustomed to doing chores with Netflix on now, having one ear bud in at work, cradling your phone for an entire journey on transit. It doesn’t make us any happier, it just makes us stop wanting. Our urges aren’t satisfied, they’re just numbed.
When you live that way you’ll notice you feel empty at the end of the day and yet when you climb into bed rather than think you should change something you need yet another distraction to go to sleep. You haven’t given your mind any time to be itself and when it tries to catch up alone in the dark of your bedroom you block it then too.
You can self-diagnose insomnia all you want, but unless you do something about it you’re really missing one of the T-balls of life.
If you live slightly above the poverty line on this continent you live like a god compared to the most grandiose kings of history. Yet unfulfillment has become our norm, all our lives and stories revolve around it.
And it because we’ve been sold the idea that pleasure should be effortless. That life is mostly toil and pleasure is the remainder, the other, the thing that happens after.
I think we often make a contract with ourselves to be unhappy whenever we’re not getting exactly what we want and we combine with the notion that if we have to put effort in enjoying something then it isn’t authentic.
Both of which are bullshit. Happiness is a skill and like all skills, once you start learning it you’ll see it’s applications everywhere.