Let’s talk about January. Based on my conversations with clients and loved ones, it seems that for a lot of us in this rainy corner of the northern hemisphere it has been a month of pervasive tiredness, of foggy minds and landscapes, of lingering colds and sudden losses. Good riddance, right? Now let’s talk about what comes after January. Because when I think of February, I think of cold snaps, grey skies, and most of all, the existential dread that accompanies the dark before the dawn of spring. In January, with all the promise, the mythos of a new year, I can dream. In February, it feels as if my body loses all memory of being warm, free, unfettered by all these layers of clothes and low clouds… and those dreams can falter.
I’ve been inspired over the years by friends who proactively prepare for the month in question, reaching for micro joys and cultivating new interests to keep the February blues at bay. So I thought I’d get creative this year – and I’m inviting you to join me.
I am proposing a daily dose of pleasure – at least 5 minutes of being fully present to something that feels good, sparks joy, and/or causes the sap to rise in our bodies.
For some of you, this might look like making time to seek out or cultivate pleasure on a daily basis; for others it may look like focusing more fully on the pleasures already present. For many, myself included, I imagine it will be a mixture of the two.
The pleasure sources or activities you choose are up to you. I do want to stress that this is not some sort of challenge to find a different pleasure for every day of the month – though if it pleases you, go for it! That being said, I have included a list of 28 pleasure possibilities below as a jumping off point. You will notice that the possibilities in question are a blend of activities that might or might not typically be associated with the erotic; that might be enjoyed individually or together; that could take anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes; but all of them are designed to invite you into the moment, into your own skin, and into the flow of aliveness. I suggest that, as you seek out your daily doses of pleasure, you look for experiences that have those same effects for you.
The how is as important as the what when it comes to pleasure – which is why I’m now going to touch on a couple of ways to get present and maximise pleasure in your chosen activity:
Begin by setting the intention to be present to pleasure, whatever that looks like for you in the moment. Slow down, and remind yourself why this is important to you. The difference between intention and expectation is the difference between a palm that is open to receive and a grasping fist. In inviting you to turn towards your chosen pleasure with intention, I invite you to do so purposefully – and also with that openness to receive, that willingness to be surprised. Cultivate your capacity for wonder.
Whether it is for 5 minutes or 30 minutes, give yourself fully to the experience. No screens, no multi-tasking, no apologies necessary. Your breath is your superpower here: Breathe out the demands of the day, and any internal or external distractions. Breathe yourself into the here and now, into your own skin. Breathe with the sensations you are experiencing, breathe with the rhythm of the experience. Give yourself the gift of this time, give yourself over to this pleasure, let it be the most important thing in your awareness for the duration.
Seek out the sensations of your preferred pleasure with your attention and appreciation. Depending on your chosen path to pleasure, it might feel good to focus on each of your senses in turn as a way to arrive fully into the experience. Or it might be more delicious to focus on one sense to the exclusion of all others (with your attention, and/or by literally muting other senses with e.g. blindfolds, ear plugs, or restraints). Experiment, find out what dulls and what heightens sensation for you. Let your senses be your guides in this unfolding, and follow where they lead.
Some words of encouragement for those who need them:
If you feel excited by the prospect of a more pleasurable February, you may already be fizzing with ideas and eager to get started. But some of you, like me, are probably noticing the objections building: I won’t be able to make time. I struggle to remember the daily practices I’m already trying to do – the last thing I need is another one. I don’t have a partner, so I won’t be able to do a bunch of things I want to/I do have a partner (or partners, or family, or housemates), and I’m going to have to explain this to them.
In short, for some of us, this is already sounding like another “should”.
So let’s take a breath, and ask ourselves the question: Would I like to give myself this gift?
Or even: Would I like to give this a go? And if the answer is yes, what would help me to do so?
(one answer for me is to pause right now and set a daily reminder on my phone – done!)
Because this is just for you, it doesn’t matter if you miss a day, need to skip weekends, or only come across this idea halfway through February and decide to start then anyway. You can give yourself the gift of a more pleasure-filled February at any point during the month, and it will still be a more pleasurable month than it would have otherwise been!
There is also no one way for this to look. It doesn’t have to look like mindfully self-pleasuring every day for a month – though if it does, that’s marvellous! But if your five minutes of pleasure are found in your lunch break, through popping outside to stand in the fragile sunshine one day, mindfully enjoying a really nice cup of tea the next, and so on, that’s just as marvellous.
The invitation here is to look for the pleasure that’s available in your life, let it surprise you, and lean into it. Even if it’s just for 5 minutes a day.
If you would like to enjoy your daily dose of pleasure in company (or you fancy a bit of accountability!), you can join me here on Facebook, where I will post the occasional prompt or words of encouragement over the course of the next month. Come on over and let’s cheer each other on in our quest for a more pleasurable February!
28 possibilities for pleasure, in no particular order
- Stretch slowly and luxuriously, attending to and appreciating each part of your body in turn
- Read a poem aloud, savouring each word
- Make something using clay or dough or pastry, savouring the sensations in your hands as you do so
- Go in search of snowdrops
- Give and/or receive oral sex
- List your five favourite smells, seek out at least one of them today
- Eat a favourite treat as slowly and savouringly as you can
- Visit a park, botanical garden, or arboretum, and choose a plant to gaze lovingly at for five minutes
- Give and/or receive a massage
- Seek out five minutes of birdsong
- Stroke an animal that likes being stroked
- Seek out live music, let it move you
- Make a Valentine’s Day card in a way that completely indulges your inner child, then have the pleasure of giving it to someone who needs reminding how special their inner child is
- Learn a self-massage technique, practice it
- Focus on each of your senses in turn in an indoor environment that you love
- Focus on each of the elements in turn in an outdoor environment that you love
- Give and/or receive an intense sensation (e.g. scratching, biting, spanking) of your choosing
- Make your favourite hot drink, savour the smell, the taste, the heat of the cup in your hands
- Listen to a favourite album all the way through
- Self-pleasure a little more slowly and savouringly than you usually do
- Make time to gaze at something bigger than yourself – the sky, a tree, the stars, the sea
- Infuse a hot flannel or a steaming hot bowl of water with a few drops of your favourite essential oil. Place the flannel over your face, or your face over the bowl with a towel over your head. Inhale and exhale.
- Share a long and lingering kiss
- How do you like your head and/or hair to be touched? Ask for that
- What’s a sensation your feet enjoy? Make that happen
- What’s your favourite sex toy? Play with it today
- What’s a pleasure you’ve always wanted to try? Can you try it now?