A weekend morning is the perfect time to relax over a lingering breakfast (and bake!). As part of my commitment to joyful living and simple pleasures, I am trying to incorporate moments of quietude and pleasure instead of just rushing to do work and chores when I wake up. Being ever eager to accomplish tasks and cross items off my to-do list (le sigh), reprogramming my routine is challenging, but will eventually form a new happy and healthy habit.
The Pleasure Principle and Joyful Living
“Paris is a place in which we can forget ourselves, reinvent, expunge the dead weight of our past.” – Michael Simkins
I love France, French, and francophone culture. The chic style. The unique music. The delicious cuisine. Foundational to these and more aspects of the quintessential French lifestyle is le principe de plaisir, the pleasure principle.
According to the French, the pleasure principle focuses on living life in a way that make you feel great. The goal is not a to-do list; it is to engage in activities that enhance your overall health and mental well-being and to create equilibrium. The pleasure principle underscores all aspects of joyful living for me: what I eat and wear, how I work and play, when I hustle and rest.
It has taken me years of mental retraining to accept and adopt aspects of the pleasure principle into my daily life. Something finally clicked for me when I re-read French Women Don’t Get Fat, the seminal tome on French lifestyle and the pleasure principle (I don’t love the title’s blatant fat shaming of women only, but love the book’s overall message nonetheless).
Author Mireille Guiliano shares a long list of the differences between how French and American women approach daily life, especially eating. She writes that while the American worries and feels guilty about what she eats, Madame looks forward to and enjoys her food. She takes pleasure in it. She does not worry or feel guilty because the pain au chocolat and cappuccino are balanced by, say, fish and salad for diner and a long walk. Et voilà, the pleasure principle.
Pleasure v. Pressure
“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn
For me, the pleasure principle is part and parcel of joyful living every day. It is all about feeling good, being gentle with yourself, and finding balance in everyday activities. There is no pressure to perform or conform to a certain standard. The point is to follow your own path and ultimately please yourself.
Here are some ways I practice incorporating the pleasure principle into my life:
Meals. I enjoy what I eat instead of feeling guilty or anxious. I’m training myself to think, “I’m so excited I get to eat this,” not, “I’m not sure if I should eat this.” The pleasure principle does not mean I get to eat whatever I want, whenever I want (macaroni and cheese! fried chicken! biscuits!). Rather, balance is key. For example, if I have bread or dairy one day, I skip it the next, et cetera.
Because of IBS and thyroid disease, I try to follow certain guidelines, such as the low-FODMAP diet, regarding food and drink. This approach works because I create balance in my meals throughout the day, from how much dairy and gluten I consume to whether I have caffeine or alcohol. I am not striving for 100% perfection here (pleasure, not pressure). Revamping my diet has been a process but well worth the results of decreased stomach upset and inflammation.
Style. In 2016, I worked with a stylist from a fancy Milwaukee boutique. As part of the consultation, she pulled every item of clothing out of my closet, told me why most of it was “not suitable” (i.e., dorky), and tried to convince me to buy expensive jeans and sweaters and handbags instead.
Yes, the closet consultation was tons of fun; the stylist showed me how to create cute ensembles from what I already owned. Yes, I was ready for a style refresh; I was in my early thirties and living in the awkward sartorial space between teenager and grand-mère. But I spent the next four years subconsciously wondering if my clothes were frumpy or if I looked okay.
One day, after the umpteenth closet purge, I suddenly realized I was sick of worrying about being “cool” or “hip” or “stylish.” Worrying is not so chic! The only one benefiting from my constant reorganization was the Goodwill donation box. It certainly wasn’t me.
Again, balance is key. If I tune in to my own pleasure principle, I know what I like to wear and always dress appropriately for every occasion. So I finally stopped worrying about how I looked. It turns out wearing clothes every day creates an opportunity for self-expression and pleasure, even in quarantine.
How can you incorporate the pleasure principle into your daily life?
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À votre santé,