How to Feel Good

We don’t have as many expressions for feeling good as we do for feeling like crap, like shit, like hell, and so on. The English language has evolved a much more colorful expression for describing negative feelings than for describing positive feelings.

Why? The language seems to indicate that we spend more time feeling bad than we spend feeling good. And why is that? Because we want to avoid feeling bad instead of doing the work to process the actual feeling. So, ironically, we spend more time in the negative state.

“What a waste of time! Nobody has time to ‘process’ feelings! Just go with the flow!”

I contend that it takes just as much technique to process positive feelings as negative feelings. Think about it. It takes just as much masterful technique to make and keep friends as it takes to ward off enemies, right? It takes more effort to keep a good marriage together than it takes to sidestep a bad marriage. It takes more effort to raise good, hard-working kids than it takes to have no kids. Right? And processing good feelings requires technique as well.

“This is ridiculous! Feeling good is easy! I don’t need TECHNIQUE to feel good!”

If feeling good were easy, then there would be no drug abuse. People would simply use drugs properly and never abuse them. Pleasure is the most easily-abused of the positive feelings. Let’s consider an example of how to feel good.

How to Feel Pleasure

For whatever reason, human beings have a rather keen sense of taste. Even our remarkable sense of vision or of hearing is not as useful as that of certain other animals. But our sense of taste for pleasure is probably unrivaled in the animal kingdom. However, this fine development comes with its difficulties.

Think about what you do while you eat. What are you doing? Watching television? Talking? I’m often bellowing at our golden retriever for breathing on my leg. He just sits there. Breathing. And breathing. And breathing. Point is, there are lots of distractions (external stimuli) during eating. These distractions counter the inner stimulus of pleasure and the purpose it is trying to accomplish.

Pleasure stimulates the presence of a neurotransmitter called dopamine, one of several neurobiological chemicals that contribute to a feeling of well-being or happiness. By admitting distractions during meals, we are inhibiting the benefits of dopamine and other pleasure-centered neurotransmitters such as oxytocin (not to be confused with Oxycontin, a prescription drug).

I am a friend of several monasteries wherein talking is not permitted during breakfast and is permitted at the evening meal only after an introductory period of reflection. These periods of silence allow the members time to focus on the pleasurable benefits of the meal.

When you eat, try to focus on the pleasure of every bite. Even the simplest boiled potato without salt transmits an amazing amount of flavor if you are truly focused on it. We bombard our senses with finer and finer foods, and then we ignore the benefits of all that flavor. We often stuff ourselves to satiety rather than enjoying each smaller portion that we lift to our lips.

More about How to Feel Good

In fact, it is possible to abuse (or at least improperly use) every positive stimulus we can experience—even contemplation of God. It does not take much reflection to think of some pastor or religious leader who seems to have become so heaven-minded that he is of no earthly use.

This is a mere introduction on the topic of How to Feel Good. The Balance Wheel pages on love, pleasure, and joy cover this process more in-depth. All the pages on the positive emotions reflect on the most effective way to feel good and on the consequences of taking good things for granted.

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