Study Suggests Self-Indulgence May Be Good For You!

Why short-term pleasures may lead to feelings of well-being.

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A woman happily indulges in a fancy dessert.

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Taking time out to enjoy simple pleasures may lead to a higher sense of well-being. Hedonism, or short-term pleasures, are good for you, according to an enlightening study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. So if your favorite flavor of ice cream is in your freezer, or a vacant chair beckons you from a sunny porch, you can simply go for it!

Living in a goal-oriented world, hedonism is a concept that has been given a negative rap. However, two motivational psychologists decided to tackle hedonism as it relates to happiness. Researcher Katharina Bernecker from the University of Zurich, along with Daniela Becker at Radboud University in the Netherlands, show that taking time out to indulge is indeed beneficial.

Looking back at history, this is not a new approach. Hedonism is as old as the world. The Egyptians extolled it and ancient Sumerians revered it in the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” regarded as the oldest story on Earth.

The word hedonism comes from the Greek word for pleasure, and in a busy, goal-oriented society, it is a concept that has since been shelved as counterproductive. As it has a connotation of being valueless, short-term pleasures are pushed away and are replaced with activities that get one closer to their long-term goals.

Yet this approach does not always lead to happiness. “The pursuit of hedonic and long-term goals needn’t be in conflict with one another. Our research shows that both are important and can complement each other in achieving wellbeing and good health,” Bernecker told Mindfood.

Bernecker and Becker set out to prove their point by making a questionnaire to measure participants’ hedonic trait capacity. They wanted to determine whether indulging in a short-term pleasure was being hijacked by intrusive thoughts. This would be the guilty voice chastising participants for wasting their time. They then confirmed that these intrusive thoughts were impediments for achieving hedonistic success.

The researchers concluded that an ability to experience pleasure without the distraction of those negative thoughts resulted in a happier and more satisfied life, according to a University of Zurich press release. This is contrary to the prevailing view that those who have the most self-control are the most satisfied.

“It’s time to rethink,” Bernecker said in the press release. She agrees that self-control is an important tool for productivity, however, both Bernecker and Becker feel short-term pleasure plays an important role in feelings of well-being. They would like to see psychologists pay more respect to hedonism.

This is extremely important in recent times when many are working remotely. As the home space becomes office space, workers may lose their association with their living room being a place to relax and unwind.

Although more research must be done, the team here suggests that one must incorporate downtime into everyday life. It must be consciously planned and should somehow be separated from work activity. This will also enable your intrusive thoughts take a break, allowing you to truly indulge, enjoy, and recharge.

This is a refreshing approach to achieving life goals and feeling fulfilled. Science now proves that those short-term pleasures unassociated with your goals may actually make you feel great!

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