Living through a pandemic is an exercise in self-control. We need to wear masks everywhere we go; we need to be careful about how we interact and what we touch; we need to hold off on the pleasant and community-minded things that tie us to our favorite people. It's necessary, but that doesn't make it satisfying.
That's one reason why Dutch and Swiss researchers have just released a study reminding us that hedonism isn't optional. Being good at self-control is merely one part of achieving happiness in life; being able to enjoy short-term pleasures in the moment is equally important. That does mean taking the time to really appreciate, say, a takeout order from your favorite restaurant or an afternoon reading a good book in a sunny spot. But it also means cultivating mindfulness about the ways in which you treat yourself.
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The biggest barrier to really enjoying your little hedonisms, according to the researchers, is our own impulse to be productive. Intrusive thoughts about what you should be doing instead can undercut the benefits of short-term pleasures. Think of it like maintaining work-life balance; giving yourself clear boundaries and the permission and space to experience good things allows you to return to your chores or necessary tasks with focus and purpose.
"[P]eople who can fully enjoy themselves in those situations tend to have a higher sense of well-being in general, not only in the short term, and are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, among other things," according to the researchers' press release. In other words, the best way to help yourself do what you need to do is to let yourself kick back and be fully present in wasting time.