Pleasure Busters

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Ideally, you found a nice list of pleasurable activities from our Nifty 50 Checklist (see Worksheet 11-1) and were able to insert them into your regular life without too much trouble. However, we know that many people don't find this task so easy to do.

Emotional distress and especially depression cause distorted thinking (see Chapters 5, 6, and 7 for the lowdown on distorted thinking). In this section, we zero in on the thoughts that are most likely to interfere with your efforts to increase pleasure in your life. Three types of distortions typically get in the way: thoughts of undeservingness and unworthi-ness, thoughts that pleasure is a frivolous waste of time, and thoughts that deny the effectiveness of pleasurable activities.

Deciding to deserve fun

Depression and anxiety affect your self-esteem — and not for the better. When you're sad or anxious, you probably don't think too highly of yourself. And along with low self-esteem come thoughts such as

1 I don't deserve happiness or pleasure. 1 I'm not good enough.

^ I'm not getting enough done as it is, so I certainly don't have time for pleasure. ^ I deserve punishment, not pleasure. ^ I've let everyone down. How can I justify having fun?

As you may imagine, these types of thoughts don't exactly result in a strong desire to seek pleasure and fun. They also increase emotional distress in general. Clearly, it's best to rethink those thoughts. The following example illustrates how pleasure-busting thoughts can be turned into pleasure-boosting thoughts.

Theresa suffers from depression. Her therapist suggests that she increase the pleasurable activities in her life. Theresa finds herself resisting the idea, so she and her therapist explore the reasons behind her reluctance. They discover two pleasure-busting thoughts standing in the way: "I don't deserve pleasure," and "I'm not getting enough done in my life as it is."

Theresa and her therapist work together to rethink her pleasure-busting thoughts. Worksheet 11-5 shows what they come up with.

Worksheet 11-5

Rethinking Pleasure Busters

Pleasure-Busting Thought

Pleasure-Boosting Thought

I don't deserve pleasure.

No one has to earn pleasure. Reintroducing pleasure into my life is partly how I can get over my depression.

I'm not getting enough done in my life as it is.

Part of the reason I'm not getting enough done is because I'm so depressed. If I get less depressed, I'll be more productive.

If you find that you're resisting increasing pleasure in your life, it's likely you have one or more pleasure-busting thoughts. The following exercise helps you identify the pleasure-busting thoughts you may have and develop more adaptive, pleasure-boosting thoughts.

1. Read the pleasure-busting thoughts in the left-hand column of Worksheet 11-6. These are the most common thoughts people have that get in the way of increasing pleasure. Circle those relevant to you.

2. Add any thoughts that aren't on our list in the extra spaces provided.

3. For each thought that you've circled or added, develop a pleasure-boosting thought that refutes the pleasure-busting thought. Consider the following points in developing motivating thoughts:

• Is this pleasure-busting thought actually exaggerated or illogical in some way?

• Is there a better way to think about this pleasure-busting thought?

• If a friend of mine told me that thought, would I think it was completely legitimate or would it sound merely self-defeating?

• Is this thought helping me?

If you struggle to come up with pleasure-boosting thoughts, turn to Chapter 3 for ways to defeat the distorted thinking that's standing in your way.

Worksheet 11-6 Rethinking Pleasure Busters

Pleasure-Busting Thought

Pleasure-Boosting Thought

I don't deserve happiness or pleasure.

I'm not getting enough done as it is, so I certainly don't have time for pleasure.

I'm not good enough.

I deserve punishment, not pleasure.

I've let everyone down. How can I justify having fun?

Finding fun frivolous?

Common thoughts among the pleasure-challenged folks of the world are, "Having a good time is a waste of time," and "Fun is frivolous." These people usually think that work and accomplishments are acceptable activities, but fun, entertainment, or even relaxation are definitely unacceptable. Their leisure activities are typically ones that expand their knowledge or increase their skills.

We're not saying that expanding your horizons is a bad thing, but trashy novels, silly movies, a walk in the park, some time at a comedy club, dancing, or a little karaoke (mind you, you'll never, ever see us doing this one!) have many benefits.

Benefits, you ask? Absolutely. Research shows that pleasure forms the backbone of a healthy life. For starters, pleasure decreases anxiety and depression because it releases endorphins that make you feel grrrreat. But it also has other important physical and emotional benefits such as

^ Improved immune function ^ Decreased feelings of chronic pain ^ Decreased risk of heart attack ^ Decreased stress ^ Prolonged life expectancy

1 Enhanced sense of well-being 1 Improved overall health 1 Increased productivity

Did you notice that last item, "Increased productivity"? Many people think that non-work related activities are frivolous. Truth is, putting pleasure into your life actually makes you more productive when you're working. You have more enthusiasm for your work and more energy. In other words, you're very likely to get more done if you just take a break every once in a while!

If you've fallen into the "fun is frivolous" mind trap, we'd like you to seriously consider the benefits of pleasure. Think about what pleasure and its benefits can mean to you and your life. Jot down your conclusions under My Reflections in Worksheet 11-7.

Worksheet 11-7

My Reflections

Pleasure-pooping predictions

Minds riddled with depression and anxiety do a curious thing: They make predictions about how much you're likely to enjoy various activities. And with amazing consistency, these predictions, such as the following, are negative:

^ I'm not going to enjoy myself at all. ^ That sounds so boring. ^ I'll just look stupid. ^ I'm too down to like anything like that. ^ I'm too anxious to enjoy myself at that party.

Recognize any of these thoughts? Research has demonstrated rather conclusively that, especially when you're depressed or anxious, such predictions are worse than unreliable — they're actually reliably wrong! In other words, when you push yourself to engage in a potentially pleasurable activity, you're highly likely to discover that you enjoy it more than you think you will.

But if you believe what your mind tells you and take its negative predictions as the gospel truth, you'll follow the wrong road again and again — you'll avoid pursuing pleasure. Listening to your mind is a little like listening to the radio for the daily traffic report. Each and every day the reporter tells you to avoid taking I-40 because of construction delays. So you choose the surface roads and spend an extra 20 minutes getting to work. The only problem is that the reporter is lying to you, and you'd be much better off not listening to his advice. Think of this conniving reporter as your mind, predicting that activities can't possibly cause you pleasure, and fire the reporter in your mind.

To help you overcome your mind's negative predictions, try our Pessimistic Pleasure-Busting Exercise.

1. From Worksheet 11-1, choose five potentially pleasurable activities that you'd be willing to try.

2. List those activities in the left-hand column of Worksheet 11-8.

3. Predict the amount of enjoyment or pleasure each activity may give you on a scale of 0 (no fun at all) to 10 (maximal pleasure). Write that number in the middle column.

4. Do the pleasurable activity.

5. Rate how much enjoyment you actually felt from each activity on the same scale of 0 (no fun at all) to 10 (maximal pleasure).

6. Write about your observations and conclusions under My Reflections in Worksheet 11-9.

Worksheet 11-8 Pessimistic Pleasure-Busting Exercise


Predicted Fun (0-10)

Experienced Fun (0-10)

Can you see a trend in Worksheet 11-8 — that you experienced more pleasure than you expected for most of your activities? If you don't see it, keep trying.

The pleasure you feel will likely increase slowly over time. And it's okay to come back to this exercise again later after you've worked on your depression and anxiety in other ways.

Worksheet 11-9 My Reflections

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Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Suffering from Anxiety or Panic Attacks? Discover The Secrets to Stop Attacks in Their Tracks! Your heart is racing so fast and you don’t know why, at least not at first. Then your chest tightens and you feel like you are having a heart attack. All of a sudden, you start sweating and getting jittery.

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