Pleasure is most accessible when we are so involved in an activity that we lose awareness of anything other than the activity itself. In a sense, during these times, we merge with the activity. We lose the distinction between our sense of self and our sense of what we are doing. This has been termed “Flow” by researchers and if we step back and consider how we feel during these Flow experiences, we acknowledge them as the most pleasurable activities of our lives.
There is a competition for conscious experience of sensory input. It follows a hierarchy of the strongest sensation taking priority. We survive by avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure. This system of filtering sensory input allows us to experience life in an orderly fashion. Deep brain structures sift through sensory input from the body. The most compelling sensations are combined with emotional responses and are passed from instinctual areas of the brain to higher centers where we become conscious of them. Once conscious, they are determined to be pleasurable or painful. Conversely, we can seek a pleasurable activity, enjoy it and consciously direct this back to deep brain pleasure hotspots. There it reverberates around pleasure circuits and, if given a high pleasure priority, is returned to consciousness. Thus we can decide to go see a lovely sunset at the beach, experience it as pleasurable and enhance our sense of well-being.
People with persistent pain have difficulty experiencing pleasure. Dedicate one day a week to go on a pleasure hunt. Seek and find new ways to enjoy life. Be resolved to pursue pleasure and have the intention of using it to counter-stimulate brain pain circuits. Best of all, see if you can use some of this time to share your pleasure with others.