We all have our guilty pleasures, right? But when you think about it it’s kind of an oxymoron to say it’s a guilty pleasure. Feeling guilty is not pleasurable.
Let’s say you’ve got a sweet tooth. And every now and then you just can’t help yourself but to indulge in a mouthwatering glazed donut.
In your mind, when you’re thinking about getting the donut you are thinking how good the donut will taste but, more importantly, that it will make you happy.
But will it really make you happy?
After you’ve finished eating the donut do you feel satisfied, content, at peace with yourself? I know that you think this is how you feel, but observe how you feel while eating the donut and after.
Often we eat sugary sweets or bad foods when we aren’t feeling great. So we think the donut (French fries, hamburger….) will make us feel better. But not only do we not feel better after consuming the food, we often feel guilty.
Guilt definitely does not feel good – in fact, it feels awful! Guilt also makes us feel so bad we can end up repeating the same bad behavior that got us there! In for a penny, in for a pound.
That’s what makes this so ironic!
We break down and eat a cookie, have a glass of wine or whatever it is that we deem we shouldn’t be having. And then instead of the anticipated good feelings, we feel even worse.
I know how hard it is to say no when you’ve got that feeling that you have to have it. And it’s even worse when it comes from a place of not feeling good to begin with. We don’t like feeling bad and we’ll do anything to change it.
But it seems sensible to check it out to see whether we really are changing our mood or making it worse by adding on guilt.
So the next time you feel like that, try if you can to sit with it for a few minutes. Put the donut (or whatever it is that you are struggling with) in front of you and observe the feeling of wanting. Does it feel good to want?
Then eat the donut and ask yourself, “am I happy?” Is your mental state calm, peaceful, and content? I didn’t ask if you liked the taste of the donut – I’m pretty sure the donut tastes good. So, did eating the donut take you from unhappy to happy?
Will You or Won’t You Indulge?
When faced with the desire to indulge there is a primary indicator that will determine whether you will or won’t. If your heart is beating rapidly and the cookie or glass of wine is in front of you, absolutely you will take it. That’s when stress moves in on the wanting – taking it to an extreme form of wanting (“I’ll die if I don’t have this”). It’s really hard to say no at that point.
But if you can slow your heart rate down, with some mindful breathing you have a much greater chance of saying no. Slowing the heart rate down, bringing your nervous system back into balance allows your willpower to start flexing its muscles. This puts the brakes on your short-term (often unhealthy) wants and helps you to keep your long-term (often healthy) goals in tact.
It’s not that wanting things or eating the occasional donut is bad. But the object you desire will never bring you happiness or satisfaction so don’t fool yourself into believing that lie. They can bring you short-term pleasure and that’s not a bad thing. As long as it’s not in conflict with your long-term goals AND that it doesn’t make you feel guilty after doing it (remember more often guilt drives us to repeat the bad behaviors!).
It’s Not Even This Moment You’re Afraid Of
Being bored, feeling a little down or stressed out are a natural part of the human experience. Instead of automatically resisting it every time (which makes it worse) take a look at what’s going on. Most often it’s not that this moment is so bad, but the thought that the next moment is going to be unbearable.
That’s what drives us to shove something in our mouth or our mind to avoid that dreaded next moment. Of course, not realizing that whatever action we take from that state of mind is usually unskillful and therefore prolongs the negative mind state.
It would benefit us more if sometimes we just sat with the experience. You won’t die from boredom or just feeling down. Too often we just give into it unconsciously.
If we have any hope in reversing this we’ve got to become conscious.
Ask yourself, “is this moment OK?” Keep asking yourself this question. The purpose of this exercise is to get you out of your head and back to reality. Whenever I do this ALWAYS the answer is yes. I might have to ask it 10 times before I realize everything really is OK and I can handle whatever is happening – even just being bored!
Then if you want to do something make sure it will bring you the results you desire. Exercise is the fastest way to turn any mood around. Go for a walk outside. Call a good friend. Do something kind for someone else. All of these activities will make you feel better with zero guilt!
We want happiness but so often end up doing things that make us feel guilty instead. Check this for yourself and see if it’s true. Happiness doesn’t just fall upon us, sometimes we need to work at it.