Now this is something you won’t find me giving a recipe for. It is a favourite of a client of mine but even she admitted it was an acquired taste. (Should I ever be invited onto Saturday Kitchen sprouts would definitely feature in my food hell choice). But it serves beautifully to exemplify how different our small pleasures are. Whilst this may be blindingly obvious, what is less obvious is that it is, according to William Bloom, vital to seek out and create positive experiences – of all kinds – so that we manage the body chemistry that keeps us well. In his book, Feeling Safe, he shares many thoughts about how to protect yourself against stress and negativity and how to build inner confidence and strength.
He likens the body to a cauldron where we are cooking, not sprouts, but a mix of hormones which need to be kept in balance for our mental and physical well-being. There is now plenty of research documenting the connection between our thoughts and their impact on our bodies and it is well worth remembering this next time you feel tense and irritated whist battling your way through crowds of Christmas shoppers.
For a healthy balance, we need endorphins. Endorphins are the body’s natural wonder chemical which boost the immune system and help kill pain and, more immediately, give us feelings of pleasure and well-being. The endorphin effect from exercising is well-known but fear not, I am not about to suggest you set our for a run – unless you want to of course. Endorphins can be raised in all sorts of ways, including simply doing and thinking of things that make us happy. Whenever you feel stressed or down, make a list of things that make you happy. Include activities, experiences, sights, people, smells, objects, tastes, textures, animals. This alone boosts the endorphin flow and leads to a sense of quiet contentment (in most people. I did come across one person who found the exercise stressful!).
If you really want to go for broke, research from Positive Psychology demonstrates that savouring an experience increases the pleasure both in the moment and for later revisiting. Another endorphin boost.
So, pick something from your list. If you are not going to do it immediately, then look forward to it. Think about it in full Technicolor detail. Savour the anticipation. (If it’s sprout curry, go buy the sprouts). When the moment arrives, focus on it fully. Notice things that normally pass you by. Depending on the experience, look carefully at it, smell it, taste it, touch it, describe it, give it time. Make vivid mental snapshots that you can store for future reference. Enjoy it fully in the moment. Another endorphin boost. Later, if stress or negativity threatens, or if you just want to feel good, revisit the memory.
If sprout curry and jogging do it for you, enjoy them. Personally, I will stick to bacon wrapped chipolata and a good film.