In my pursuit for better mental health, I’ve found a lot of self-help and recovery resources that recommend comforting activities for when you’re having intensely negative emotions or massive anxiety. The purpose is to calm you down and distract you from the negative or uncomfortable situation. I’ve also seen mental health tips like, “do something that you love” or “take up a hobby,” to encourage emotional happiness and decrease stress.
These both sound great and all, but it can be frustrating if you don’t see any practical application, or if the given examples don’t actually do anything for you.
When I tried to create my own list of comfort activities and pleasure activities, I realized that I was confusing comfort and pleasure. I’m not very good at self-care, and it became difficult to connect to someone else’s generic list, much less find the difference between comfort and pleasure. I decided to sort out the differences so that, when I needed it, I’d engage with the proper self-care technique.
So in order to better serve my mental health, I have to distinguish between comfort and pleasure. It looks something like this:
Comfort is soothing, distraction, calming, and healing
While it can certainly be enjoyable, the main benefit is that it is soothing and calming. It will both comfort me and distract me from any harmful stimuli (especially negative thoughts). Something can be distracting, like Facebook, but not necessarily comforting though. Or it may be comforting to stay in pajamas and underneath the covers, but that isn’t distracting you or helping you with your difficult situation.
I also realized that other people’s definition of comfort, like reading a book, might not match mine. I had to figure out from experience what things actually calm me and heal me.
Some comforting things to me would be:
- Listening to soothing, relaxing music (smooth/chill EDM is my go-to)
- Tactile comforts like playing with kinetic sand or a fidget cube
- Funny videos, especially stand-up comedy (maybe not classically comforting, but laughter is good for the soul, and it can change my mood so quickly)
- Lighting a nice-smelling candle
- The smell of printed magazines or books, speaking of nice-smelling things
- Taking a bath with Epsom salt or Eucalyptus oil
- Using face masks–i like to feel clean and taken care of
- Opening the blinds during a sunny day or stepping outside for a moment to absorb some sunlight
- Going on a walk, if I’m able to
- Looking at the stars/galaxies (outside or pictures online)
- Breathing exercises
Pleasure is fun, enjoyable, rewarding, exciting, and enriching
Like I said before, pleasure and comfort can cross paths, but the main benefit of seeking pleasurable or enjoyable activities is ultimately about increasing happiness. Seeking hobbies and interests which you’re passionate about gives your life purpose and fulfillment–or they can just be an enjoyable way to unwind and have fun.
Here are the activities that really get my blood pumping:
- Music – especially listening through a good pair of headphones or a nice speaker, while I do chores or some other mindless tasks with my hands
- Connecting with people who make my heart happy, who make me laugh, who really get me
- Playing video games
- Learning new things
- Making videos/short films to tell the stories I envision
When to Use These Activities
Now that I know the difference, here is how I like to utilize the items in each category:
- High anxiety
- Stressful situation
- Being upset or sad
- Bad mood
- Feeling listless or restless
- Being in a rut
What are some things on your comfort list or pleasure list?