Sunday, 13 May 2012

Pleasure for Productivity

Pleasure for productivity - with Laura-Doe Harris
I’m the bearer of good news - feeling good is good for you
Pleasure can be considered selfish, greedy, or hedonistic
But if we want to be healthy it is in our very best interests to make pleasure a priority. 
To understand why this is so we need to discover more about how our bodies function and how stress affects us. Three hormones share credit (or blame) for most of the changes caused by stress, cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline. How the body releases these explains why we can't be stressed and happily content at same time.
Our autonomic nervous system controls the heart, the smooth muscles around your organs, and your glands. Its function is involuntary - we have no conscious control.
The two branches of the autonomic nervous system send messages to and from the brain using entirely different paths - called Sympathetic and Parasympathetic. These two branches cause the release of very different chemicals governing different and opposing physiological & emotional states.
Sympathetic is the fight or flight system - it up-regulates the body to prepare it fight or to flee to safety when in danger.
The Parasympathetic nervous system down-regulates the body to return it to the ability to rest & repair. These pathways calm the heart rate, lower blood pressure, support digestion etc.
Under normal conditions, the body swings back and forth between sympathetic and parasympathetic dominance all day long, in cycles called ultradian rhythms
But today's overstimulated lifestyles lead to chronic stress - we tend to be a bit addicted to sympathetic dominance. Caffeine, media, cell-phones, busy lifestyles and computers all up-regulate us. Our bodies forget about down-regulation and this is the beginning of the disease process. 
Stress has been known to cause disease since Hans Selye's groundbreaking research in the mid 1900s. 80% or more of diseases have been shown to be stress related.
Women who work produce twice as much cortisol as men do. We particularly need to create a way of working that allows our bodies periods of down-regulating, cortisol reducing parasympathetic time.
So how do we activate our parasympathetic nervous system? 
You guessed it - pleasure!
Every experience of pleasure activates your immune system, providing a measurable and enduring boost to your body's natural defenses. A single moment of pleasure can boost your immune response for up to 6 hours
Pleasure does not just happen to us - we must actively choose to cultivate pleasure in our lives and in our relationships.  
What can we do to inject more pleasure into our days?
The act of laughter instantly lowers blood pressure for hypertensive persons, stimulates the brain, expands and enriches the blood vessels with oxygen, and sends more blood racing to the extremities. It reduces the levels of stress hormones adrenaline & cortisol in the body. It increases the happiness hormone oxytocin and triggers a spike in immune-boosting antibodies. Sustained laughter gradually increases the levels of cytokine in the blood – a white blood cell enhancer which builds antibodies and helps prevent illnesses.
Laughter is a form of stationery jogging - it has thesame health benefits as vigorous aerobic exercise stimulating the heart and blood circulation. 
Twenty seconds of heavy laughter is equal to 3 minutes of hard rowing and burns up to 400 calories per hour!
A daily dose of laughter exercises 15 different facial muscles is anti-ageing and beats any anti-oxidant pill on the market!
The great thing about laughter is that you don't even have to find something funny to laugh at!! Laughter meditation is a worldwide movement.
Tip 1  - take regular laughter breaks! Have joke books in the workplace, follow funny people on facebook, tune in to comedians on youtube or simply do a 10 minute laughter meditation.
Breath is our best tool to regulate the nervous system.
Deep long out breaths with a sigh encourage the movement of the smooth muscles in the body, aiding in digestion and lowers blood pressure. 
Tip 2 - Smell the roses, use aromatherapy, look at beautiful images - inhale and enjoy the view - visualise breathing in delight and exhaling stress 
We tend to operate in one of three channels cognitive, physical and emotional. When you are taking a break, it’s important to change channel. 
Music helps us change to an emotional channel
David, lacking access to Prozac played harp to alleviate King Sauls depression. 
It’s no accident that Apollo was the god of music and medicine. 
The levels of IgA - one of the frontline defenses of the immune system were measured in the saliva of a group of people who listened to a short piece of music and in a control group. The music listeners levels spiked and then stayed higher for several hours compared to those who sat in silence.
Tip 3 -  take music breaks
Pleasurable touch alleviates depression. If you are feeling depressed, and are touched or cuddled, your blood chemistry can change in as little as one millionth of a second. The brain instantly responds to pleasurable touch with a flood of endorphins.
Pleasurable touch makes you feel loved. Feeling loved and emotionally secure is essential for the overall health of mammals. Study after study shows that emotional bonds and physical contact allow mammals to thrive. Studies with infants have shown that touch and love are biological needs on par with food and water. 
Tip 4 - Touch yourself or others or pets or soft cuddly toys! - Put your pet on your screen saver or have a picture on the desk - Ask for hugs.
Squeeze your pelvic floor muscles
Some researchers maintain that pelvic floor fitness is essential for a woman's life long physical, sexual and emotional health. It is a fun and easy and valuable exercise that you can do wherever you are.
For instructions check out Victoria Vulva in this clip from Laura-Doe’s Vaudeville of the Vulva  - or visit for more tips on the topic and to get your copy of her squeeze-along song ‘Do the Kegel’!
Tip 6 - Kegel when you are talking on the phone, in the bank queue, on the bus ... you can even Kegel when you Google!
Neuroplasticity refers to the idea that the brain is capable of changing in response to experience and training. Wellbeing and happiness are skills that can be cultivated.
If you’d like to explore pleasure and your relationship with it further, then please come along to The Power of Pleasure. This series of four half day workshops is designed to empower women to re-connect with our glorious sensual bodies and cultivate our creative life-force energy. The next events are on May 20th and June 3rd. Drop in for one ($40) or do the whole programme ($150). There is also a seminar for men on women’s arousal anatomy on May 19th. More details at or on facebook at
Links & resources
Ultradian Rhythms & Producivity
Our Emotional Brain (radio program)
Feeling Good Is Good for You: How Pleasure Can Boost Your Immune System and Lengthen Your Life by Carl J. Charnetski & Francis X. Brennan 
Do the Kegel
The yOniversity -

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