Find Your Pleasure: The Art of Living a More Joyful Life
In my quest to find Joy (in the Meantime), I went to a talk by Cynthia Loyst – author of a new book called Find Your Pleasure: The Art of Living a More Joyful Life. This was before social distancing came in. While listening to her talk, I realised it has been years since I had thought about what truly brings me pleasure. The idea seemed either too self-indulgent – or a bit rude.
Loyst, too, quickly learned how loaded the word was – especially for women – when setting up her website findyourpleasure.com, it was immediately blocked by the internet censors. ‘Pleasure is so often associated with sex, and in a very tawdry, forbidden, guilty-pleasure kind of way – not in a celebratory or curious way,’ she says, ‘Women are taught to discount or repress their pleasure, and men are taught to equate it with sex.’ So, it has become her mission to reframe pleasure for the masses.
Her dedication to pleasure started in 2013, when she was a newly hired co-host on a hugely popular Canadian talk show called The Social. She had a great new job, a supportive partner at home and had just given birth to her son but, she says, ‘In the quiet moments, I realised I was silently suffering and feeling guilty for having such feelings with all these wonderful things happening.’ It was a wake-up call for her. ‘For some reason the word pleasure popped into my head,’ she says, ‘I couldn’t remember when I’d last done something that was indulgent. And so that became the process I embarked on, asking, ‘What is pleasure? What can I start to do to invigorate it in my life?’” That’s when she started her website to help other women re-connect with their pleasure, eventually becoming a sex and relationship expert with a formal qualification from the University of Michigan, and now writing this book.
‘Pleasure is activating your senses and paying close attention to what you see, touch, smell, hear and taste,’ Loyst continues. ‘If you watch how children manoeuvre through life they touch everything and say whatever is on their minds. They remind us to be curious. Pleasure is about experiencing life in all of its fullness – making choices about what we put on and into our bodies, and what we surround ourselves with to look at. But there are also the big things that bring us pleasure: the goals we want to meet, the people we choose to spend time with, the ways we choose to use our voice, and who we let into our lives.’
Find Your Pleasure is the kind of book that you can dip into whenever you need some inspiration because each page outlines a pleasure that can be easily incorporated into our lives. Pleasure is grouped into chapters relating to family, friends and home; inspirations such as creativity and wandering; and, of course, there’s a ‘Love’ section that doesn’t discount or repress the pleasure of sex. Most pages also feature highlighted tabs titled ‘Pleasure Prompts’ (small exercises to try) and ‘Indulge Yourself’ (morsels for self-care).
For the Keys to Pleasure, Cynthia Loyst uses the mnemonic AAAH:
Awareness – of what is pleasureful for you
Attention – purposefully seeking and experiencing pleasure
Authenticity – being honest and non-judgmental with yourself about pleasure
Help – asking for assistance from others in order to carve out pleasure time for yourself
She acknowledges that the last two can be particularly difficult for some. And suggests that you start from a place a curiosity, simply ask questions to encourage and recognise the need for more pleasure in life. ‘We all need to think more about how we can delight and surprise and be curious about ourselves.’ Responsibilities to our families, friends and work make it especially difficult for many women to take time out, ‘Often women put themselves on the back burner, or even further back,’ she says, ‘How much time and energy do we put into delighting our friends? We don’t turn that kind of attention on ourselves very often for fear of seeming silly or superfluous.’
The author recommends carving out a protected hour every day, or saving money from unnecessary purchases to buy some time or space. While acknowledging that not everyone has the help or disposable income – poor or displaced women are usually the ones who need to reconnect with their pleasure most – Loyst insists that there should be no guilt in finding a little time for personal pleasure, ‘Your family needs you to be well, and happy, and to be part of the family for as long as possible. If you don’t prioritise a little bit of that, it (literally) takes away your life.’
Find Your Pleasure: The Art of Living a More Joyful Life by Cynthia Loyst, eBook £11.99 (Simon and Schuster, available HERE). As a gift or for someone who you think needs to re-connect with their pleasures, it is a good, light read, because it doesn’t require huge time commitment.
Alexia Economou is a design and culture journalist, and regular TNMA contributor @thedesignfeedTW