The power of Simple Pleasures an Interview with Nicole Mead Ph.D.

Can you please define ‘simple pleasures’ for us? And why they aren’t so simple?

Simple pleasures are experiences, objects, or moments that give us bursts of positive feelings. They occur in everyday life, cost little time or money, and are accessible to most people. They are very personal. What brings a momentary flash of positivity to one person may be different from what brings happiness to another. What is common is that they bring moments of positivity during the course of everyday life. For example, a walk in the park on a sunny day, a smile from a stranger, an extra nice salesperson, or sharing a piece of cake with a friend.

They are not simple because they have a powerful effect on our well-being and productivity. Simple pleasures offset the bad things that happen in daily life by infusing life with positivity. They give us the energy to preserve and work toward our daily goals, even when things are not going so well. In other words, they help to buffer the daily annoyances we so often experience.

Are there more powerful simple pleasures than others? Why?

Our preliminary analyses suggest no, potentially because simple pleasures are personal. What mattered most was the number of simple pleasures in daily life — that simple pleasures outnumber small annoyances. We did not find any difference across categories of simple pleasures.

You conducted a study about how simple pleasures can improve our daily goal-achieving, would you mind explaining what led you to this study and what was your hunch?

When people want to achieve their goals, they often think they need to neglect pleasure. But pleasure brings positive feelings, which can give people the energy and perspective to confront and work through challenging goals. So we thought that simple pleasures would help goal progress. The big question mark was whether they were powerful enough to offset daily annoyances. A lot of research suggests that daily pleasures cannot offset daily annoyances. But because goal pursuit requires positive feelings, we thought they would have a good chance of being strong enough to offset the negative impact of small annoyances on goal progress. We were so excited to find out that simple pleasures can offset the harmful consequences of small annoyances for goal progress.

How was the study done?

Students and employees signed up for the 1-week study using their smartphone. Every morning for 6 mornings, people completed a morning diary (via a survey on their smartphones) in which they told us the goals they wanted to work on for the day (e.g., work, academic, personal, relationship, health, life maintenance). Then, throughout the day, people told us if they experienced a simple pleasure or a small annoyance. They wrote about each experience. Each night, people completed a nightly survey in which they told us if they made more or less progress on their goals than they wanted to make. They also told us how stressed out they were feeling and how positive they were feeling about the day. In total, 122 people completed the 6-day study, which gave us 2460 unique experiences.

Why spending time with our simple pleasures helps us meet a deadline or get other stuff done?

Simple pleasures infuse life with positive feelings which is vital for getting stuff done. As everyone knows, making progress on goals is very hard. It requires psychological energy, physical energy, and tenacity in the face of challenges. The feeling that life is good and we are OK, which comes from simple pleasures, helps give us the necessary perspective, energy, and tenacity to persevered in the face of challenges. In addition, daily annoyances sap us of physical and mental energy. When things are not going well, but we give ourselves the opportunity to enjoy the simple things that life has to offer, we are in a much better place to put our best foot forward and continue to persevere on our goals.

Which were the most popular ‘simple pleasures’?

Spending a little bit of time with friends and romantic relationship partners. Also food (often consumed with other people!) and entertainment, such as watching a movie, reading a funny joke, or seeing a beautiful piece of art.

Why do you believe people tend to avoid these simple pleasures when they need to get things done, even though they know if its impact?

People often think of pleasure as being a hindrance or distraction to goals. From early on, many of us are taught in school, at home, or in church, that first we work then we get the reward. We have many myths which warn us of the destructive nature of pleasure, such as Ulysses. Many people do not make the link, do not know the impact of the little things in life that can give us joy and positivity. We did not know the impact until we conducted this study. We hope that this message — that enjoying the simple pleasures in life can give people positivity and help them towards their goal — will help people to know and use the impact to their advantage.


Now that you read the professional, go use the power of simple pleasures to make the best out of your day!



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