Aristotle wrote, “Happiness involves pleasure.” Yet many of us struggle to allow ourselves to experience pleasure. We sometimes think we don’t deserve to take pleasure in an experience or that doing so is somehow morally wrong or transgressive. In fact, we call many an enjoyable experience a guilty pleasure.
We all have a guilty pleasure that brings us some measure of happiness. Perhaps the guilty pleasure is eating a double fudge chocolate brownie with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream covered with swirls of caramel and mounds of whipped cream. Maybe you enjoy reality television and cannot admit taking pleasure in watching would-be cheerleaders competing for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleading team.
A guilty pleasure both brings you joy but also cause you to feel bad because it does bring you joy. Everyone has a guilty pleasure, or several for that matter. Which pleasure makes you feel guilty or embarrassed? Why does it make you happy? How could you change your mindset so that you can enjoy it without experience any feelings of guilt or shame?
Take this week’s exercise in happiness a step further. Give yourself permission to enjoy your guilty pleasure once this week without feeling guilty about it. If you have to, literally write yourself a permission slip as Brené Brown suggests.
“I, (amazing Year of Gratitude reader), give myself permission to fully enjoy (formerly guilty and now just pleasure) this week. I will not feel bad about enjoying the experience before, during, or after the experience because I deserve to take pleasure in things.
Whatever your guilty pleasure is, we won’t judge you!
Some people can immediately identify pleasures that are guilty ones while others may need to take some more time to do so. Set aside some time to think about things that you do for yourself that make you feel happy. Jot these ideas down even. Pay careful attention to any flares of discomfort or shifts in your mood. These feelings could help identify a guilty pleasure.
Once you identify a guilty pleasure, it may take you some time to think about why that pleasure causes you guilt. Knowing the why is important in helping you address and reframe the guilt that you do experience. Often, the reason the guilt is present is because the pleasure in some way violates our sense of self. For example, maybe the ice cream is a guilty pleasure because we want to consider ourselves healthy or we cannot allow ourselves to really reality television because we consider it to too trashy. The why will be different for everyone: find your why and confront it.
Then, of course, enjoy your guilty pleasure this week!