What Excites Us

Episode 16: Why Pleasure is Important!

Episode 16: Why Pleasure is Important! post thumbnail image Episode 16: Why Pleasure is Important!

In this episode I talk about why pleasure is good for you, going into detail about hormones and the effects on the body. Plus some simple ways to cheat the system.








[Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing] by Kerstin Uvnas-Moberg 1, Maria Petersson article found at the NIH National Library of Medicine

The orgasmic history of oxytocin: Love, lust, and labor Navneet Magon and Sanjay Kalra

12 Ways to Boost Oxytocin by Crystal Raypole as found on Healthline.com

What Is Oxytocin? By Lindsey Konkel on EverydayHealth.com

Food to increase oxytocin: how to boost oxytocin level by Nicole Ramirez on ToneSculpt.com

Orgasms for a Better Life: The Surprising Benefits of Sexual Pleasure at Everyday Health

How Does Dopamine Affect the Body? Crystal Raypole at Everyday Health

What’s Going On With Hormones And Neurotransmitters During Sex Michelle Clarke

How To Boost Feel-Good Hormones Naturally On the Henry Ford Health Center page

The Health Benefits of Smiling on the SCL health page

https://badgirlsbible.com/why-does-sex-feel-so-good Why Does Sex Feel Good? Bad Girls Bible Blog

https://www.maxim.com/maxim-man/why-sex-feels-good-2016-11 Science Has Finally Discovered Exactly Why Sex Feels So Good ZEYNEP YENISEY

https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/why-does-sex-feel-good-sexual-pleasure Why Does Sex Feel So Good, Anyway? KASANDRA BRABAW

https://teachmeanatomy.info/pelvis/other/pudendal-nerve/ The Pudendal Nerve from Teach Me Anatomy


Gwyn 0:06
Dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, noraep- norepinephrine, norepinephrine, right!

Hello, and welcome to What excites Us, the podcast that discusses sex and sexuality throughout time and place, including the here and now.
I’m your host Gwyn Isaacs, I’m a certified sex coach and educator. And today I’m going to be talking about why pleasure is important. I mean, we all know it feels good. And feeling good is nice. But does it matter beyond the feeling goodness of it? And if so, why?

This episode of what excites us is brought to you by me, I’m Gwyn Isaacs. And besides being your podcast host, I’m a certified sex coach and educator. And right now I have some openings for text-based clients. I love coaching over email and text. It allows you to be open and vulnerable in ways that may feel too difficult in person, which lets us tackle the concerns you have at your own pace. Very few of us were taught how to have sex, most of us are feeling our way through the dark, hoping we get it right. I can help you build skills in the bedroom and navigate your intimate relationships. I have two ways you can sign up to start texting with me right away. When you go to earthlydesire.com/coaching, you will find a weekly subscription for daily correspondence. And a way to schedule a live one hour text chat, visit earthlydesire.com to start on your path have more pleasure today, you deserve it.

First of all, a definition. I’m talking about pleasure in the active tense of enjoying a sensory experience. What’s your pleasure Sir? Kristen young, a therapist in San Francisco, posted a great definition in her article titled The Importance of Pleasure. She said “It is the feeling that we can have when we are in the present moment, and consciously taking full enjoyment in what we are experiencing.” So basically, being aware of the pleasure that’s happening, and not in your head. I want to be clear about this. Because for this discussion, I’m not talking about a sense of well being, satisfaction, or general happiness. These are all important emotions. And often pleasure plays a part in why we experienced them. But I’m talking about the activity of feeling joy. Whether it is from beautiful sunset, laughing with your loved ones, or engaging your body in a way that is delightful.

I wanted to do this episode as one of the first in my Basics series, because so many of us believe we have to earn pleasure. And allow me to say right here and now that that is just some misinformation that you picked up along the way. And I don’t blame you. I struggle with that belief myself. There are many cultures and religions that include that as part of their central tenant of beliefs. And even if you don’t actively believe it yourself, it is everywhere. TV movies, the internet, everywhere. Often mixed up in that belief is that hedonism is bad, and that you are or become a hedonist when you partake in too much pleasure.

But that is an example of how words morphe over time. Because what most people mean today, when they say hedonism is actually gluttony, or debauchery. Even the Google Dictionary includes in their definition of hedonism, sensual self indulgence, which has a fairly negative implication, don’t you think? After the immediate gut reaction, take a step back and ask why is indulging in yourself such a bad thing? I believe it isn’t.

To be clear, I do believe that rote stimulus that we continue, because once it felt good can become a negative thing, things like my match three game, or porn, or other video games, or delicious cake, they can all become compulsions, and that’s not good. But when we are tuned into ourselves centered, and in a healthy place, we are less likely to engage in that. When we find ourselves chasing a previous pleasure, and it doesn’t even really feel good anymore, that it’s not true pleasure. It’s a compulsion or an addiction. And that is not what I’m talking about when I’m talking about why pleasure is important.

Sometimes, we use pleasure to mask other feelings. That’s a gray area in my mind. I think that if we do it too often, and don’t deal with what we are trying to hide from ourselves, it definitely becomes unhealthy. But I also think that in the short term, it can be beneficial.

For instance, imagine you’ve had a lousy day at work. And by the time you get home, you’re fuming, and replaying all the shitty things that have happened all day long. There are many ways that this can go, you could, without intending it, pick a fight with your partner end up saying things you don’t necessarily mean just because you need to get the anger out of your system.

Or you could come home brush past your partner, go for an aggravated run to exercise that energy out. But unintentionally, you might push yourself too far, because you’re still thinking about the day and you end up pulling a muscle or worse, and then you’re still cranky when you get home.

Or you could tell your person you’re in a funky mood, and then go engage in some pleasure seeking activity. Maybe sex, or a hot bath, dance party with the kids, watching some of your favorite shows, play a video game, be creative, the list goes on and on. By doing that, the mood will lift and you’re able to find balance again, in that moment. pleasure seeking is an antidote, and not a cause for concern. See how it’s all different possibilities.

Now to be clear, this approach doesn’t work all the time, or for everyone or for everyone all the time. I mean, you got to do you. So now that we have a baseline of what pleasure is, I’m going to talk about what feeling pleasure does for our bodies. The too long didn’t read version is that it’s good for us, but how?

You may have heard of oxytocin, it can be called the love hormone or the cuddle drug. It was getting a lot of press a couple of years ago. But what exactly is it? Well, it’s a nonapeptide. Yeah, I had to look that up too. So don’t worry if you aren’t a sciency person, I am so not really a sciency person, so I’m going to explain it to you. In short, a nonapeptide is a hormone collection of nine amino acids. Amino acids are the molecules that combine to form proteins and they are the building blocks of life.

Oxytocin also acts as a neurotransmitter meaning it sends chemical messages in the brain. It can be made in a laboratory, or in our bodies when we engage in certain activities. When people first discovered oxytocin, they believed its only function was to help stimulate and ease birth for mothers. This is why in 1906, when Sir Henry Dale discovered it, he named it for the Greek words for swift birth. It is released in large amounts while a person is in labor, and continues throughout lactation, although in smaller amounts. So it does help facilitate the whole process and it eases it so they say, which of course, leads me to wonder how bad it would be without it because oy childbirth is pretty painful and awful. At least it was for me.

In recent years, scientists have been studying the hormones role in social bonding, orgasm, overall wellness feelings and a bunch of other physiological responses. There are studies indicating it may have a role in creating and maintaining erections. Here are some of the other benefits scientists have already proven to be true.

Oxytocin can reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds, it reduces anxiety, and it stimulates positive social interaction. It can be a benefit for folks who suffer from depression, PTSD, and other psychiatric and cognitive concerns. It also promotes growth and healing. They have demonstrated that repeated exposure to oxytocin causes long lasting effects and positively influences the activity level of other hormone transmitter systems leading to a better working body overall.

So in short, the more you get, the better you feel, the more you want, the more you get, better you feel, and it goes on and on and on. So while it is possible to purchase oxytocin, it is much more fun and cheaper to make it yourself.

And allow me to say for the record, I am not a doctor, I am not a scientist, I do not recommend you try purchasing oxytocin over the counter, I am absolutely not even a little bit close to being able to make a recommendation like that. However, if you do or you have, I would surely love to hear about it. Please send me a message via the SpeakPipe button on the web page or an email because I’d love to know now back to making it.

The most effective way to raise oxytocin levels is to touch another person. Although intentional self touch is also incredibly beneficial. Things like a shoulder rub, a hug, or even gently stroking the arms are easy ways to touch, consensually of course, always, consensually. Definitely only touch people who want you to touch them and vice versa. Now, sex is great, of course. Remember, this is a show about sex. So it’s a fantastic way to increase your oxytocin levels, as well as the other helpful hormones some of which I will get to.

But even if you are touch averse, and asexual there are lots of other pleasurable activities that can build oxytocin. Listening to music you enjoy is great. Making music is even better. Dancing is fantastic and so is making art. Eating a good meal can be wonderful for building oxytocin.

There are even some foods that promote oxytocin building such as fatty fish, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, avocados, and my favorite chocolate. If you can eat that meal with friends or loved ones, and enjoy some good conversations even better, oxytocin not only promotes social bonding, but social bonding promotes oxytocin, and again back to the cycle. Even appreciating a beautiful viewer sunset can raise your oxytocin levels. In fact, gratitude is great for all of your beneficial hormone levels.

And this one might surprise you a little bit, but gift giving and generosity in general also create a huge boost in your oxytocin levels. So you don’t need to feel guilty about accepting that cool gift from someone you barely know they got something out of it too, unless it’s creepy. Don’t accept gifts from creepy people, that could just set you up for a whole mess up. We’re not going to go there. You know what I’m saying though.

Alright, now that we have a handle on oxytocin, let’s talk about some other hormones slash neurotransmitters that are created, released and used in our bodies when we experience pleasure. And this one has also gotten a fair amount of press in the past few years. My friends, drumroll please. [drumroll sound effect] May I introduce you to dopamine.

While it is generally known as the feel good hormone, it has more of a shadow side than what we thus understand about its colleague oxytocin, because when you associate a certain activity with pleasure, the mere anticipation of that activity is enough to raise your dopamine levels. This creates a cycle of motivation, reward and reinforcement. This is great and can be used as a tool in goal setting and getting, but it can get folks like me who have a tendency towards addiction and compulsion and or have experienced a fair amount of trauma into trouble. It’s that feeling you get when you win a level in a video game. {Sweet}.

So when a person is struggling with any number of things like pain or unhappiness, or just has trouble regulating their sense of moderation, it can be bad, mkay?

Besides being a mood and emotional hormone, dopamine is involved in a lot of other bodily functions, a crazy amount of seemingly unrelated things like blood flow, digestion, executive functioning, heart and kidney functions, memory and focus, motor control, pain processing, pancreatic functions, insulin regulation, sleep and stress response. Now, in most of these instances, it’s not working alone. It’s part of a team who neurotransmitters doing this work including serotonin and adrenaline.

Interestingly, it’s possible to have too much as well as too little dopamine. When our dopamine is in balance, it can contribute to feeling alert, having focus, motivation and happiness which lends itself to being able to plan and learn productively, as well as overall happiness and a sense of satisfaction. We call these good days, a flood of dopamine produces temporary feelings of euphoria like when you’re experiencing extreme pleasure. Remember, this is an episode about why pleasure is good for you, I promise we will get back there.

But real quick, before we do that, let’s finish off the things you need to know about dopamine. It’s made in our guts. So having a healthy digestive system can go a long way to keeping yourself in balance. And as a side note, while we aren’t really talking about it today, serotonin is also made of the guts and one of its main roles is to keep us from experiencing depression, which can make it hard to feel pleasure. So having a healthy gut system is super helpful.

Now, if you have too much dopamine, you may struggle with mania, hallucinations, delusions, addictions, even schizophrenia. Not that dopamine is the only cause of any of these issues. It’s also important to note that people who are suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and depression have too little dopamine in their system. Which usually include symptoms of sadness, sleep problems, and cognitive changes.

To be clear, none of this is meant to be a diagnostic tool. If you are concerned that you may have an imbalance, please see a medical professional who can run some lab tests for you and give you some definitive answers.

So when you find yourself enjoying yourself, you are increasing your dopamine levels. And as long as you aren’t feeding a mania or a compulsion that is great for your body, your mood, and your general outlook on life.

Oh, boy, that was a lot of science. Very sciency sometimes, frighteningly impersonal. I want to take a step back for a second, because I find it fascinating that each one of these hormones that I’ve talked about, replenishes themselves from activities that create good feelings, as well as having benefits to our body. It seems to me that this is not an accident.

Now, in general, yes, I do tend more towards the spiritual than the purely scientific reasoning. I do think science is important. And I think that there is a whole lot more that we don’t understand yet. If you think back on what science has said in the past, and then disproved, things like gravity, and the solar system come to mind and how all of that has changed. You can see my viewpoint a little bit, we are constantly figuring out more and more stuff, I bet there is more in the design of these hormones and our bodies than we will be able to understand today. And hey, if you’re a scientist, and would like to come on the show and chat with me about hormones, or anything else related to sex, and sexuality, please, please, please get in touch with me, I would really love to talk with you.

So when we experience pleasure, on a regular basis, we are more resilient, have less stress, and are able to maintain better focus and personal balance. We are more likely to be generous and genuinely interested in bonding with our people. We want to share joy and pleasure with our social groups and our families, which makes them feel better. It’s kind of like that cheesy, lighting a candle from another candle metaphor. Cheesy but true, the first flame doesn’t go out. And if enough people do it in the space, the space gets very, very bright.

So you may have experienced this when you are feeling good and walking down the street more people seem to notice you than usual. And then when you smile, they smile back. Although that’s been kind of hard the past couple of years. But you know what I mean? Who knows how many people the one simple act of smiling can affect in a very, very positive way.

And if all of this isn’t enough to prove my point, although I think it is, there’s some new research from the University of Zurich and Radboud University in the Netherlands demonstrating that in Enjoying short term pleasurable activities that don’t directly lead to long term goals contribute at least as much to a happy life as self control does. That’s right. There’s scientific evidence, proving that spending intentional time enjoying yourself leads to overall well being, and having a life that is more satisfying. I feel a surge of deep satisfaction.

To wrap it up, I have one simple and easy way to hack the whole system, ready? All you have to do is smile. Even when you aren’t feeling it. When you smile, just the mechanics of raising the corners of your mouth, it releases all the neuro peptides to help fight off stress. Then other neurotransmitters like oxytocin and dopamine and serotonin and endorphins come into play too, that creates a feedback loop of pleasure begetting pleasure, try it now, now, I really try it now. Are you trying it? Can you hear that I’m smiling? I have found folks who use this technique as a part of their daily health regimen. They say smiling from 15 to 60 seconds every morning makes their lives better. And now because they’ve gotten it into a practice, they can use it as a coping mechanism to when something does go bad. They say that even 10 seconds of smiling every day can have a positive impact.

So to wrap up, enjoying yourself can be good for your body and your mental health. Having sex is one fairly intense way to enjoy yourself. And therefore engaging in sexual activities that you find satisfying by yourself or with others is good for you. I hope that if you’re one of those folks that has a complicated relationship with pleasure that this has given you enough information to at least rethink that relationship.
If you think I’ve missed a bunch or you want to know more, or you have other things to add, please do get in touch. You can record a message anonymously or not right at my website, whatexcitesus.com. There’s a little button called SpeakPipe, or you can send me an email at Gwyn@earthlydesire.com. I love it when people are part of the conversation with me. Like this recent question that has come in.

Caller 22:31
Why does sex feel good?

Gwyn 22:34
Oh, boy. Thank you so much for the question. But ugh, this is a big one. It could have easily been its own show in a number of ways and formats. But it also made sense to talk about it with all of the brain chemical stuff that we just covered. So I’m going to go ahead and dive in. I believe the basic answer is so that we have the drive to continue the species, you know? But I don’t think you are really asking the philosophical reasons. So let’s talk about the physical ones.

During sex, as I discussed, we are flooding our brains with all of the neurotransmitters that make us feel amazing. dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, norepinephrine, vasopressin, and endorphins. And well, you get the idea. And on top of that, over 30 specific and different parts of our brains light up during sexual activities. Now, when the genital areas get involved, then our Prudential nerves get stimulated and they really like that. These are the major somatic nerves of the sacral complex. They span from the clitoris or penis to the anus, and generally they like to feel good, they like to be touched.

If they don’t feel good when they’re touched, then there’s an indicator that something isn’t quite right. And if it’s not a matter of communication, please talk to someone with expertise to help you. So if the person who is touching you is not doing it in the way that feels good to you, tell them to do that. If there’s something else going on, you might need some medical help.

Also, if you are someone who likes the pulsing movement, aspects of sexual activity, you might enjoy knowing that there are some recently published findings demonstrating that humans go into a trance state during rhythmic sex. The senses get heightened and our brains become entrained to each other, which is the same feeling we get when participating in a particularly moving religious event or a fantastic concert, when you dance for hours or when you are really deep in the flow of something. You know that feeling? Same thing, there are also health benefits to having orgasm.

Regular orgasms can improve a variety of things from the obvious things like mood and insomnia to strengthening the pelvic floor muscles, lessening menstrual symptoms, and lowering risks of prostate cancer. A regular orgasm helps our heart and our overall vascular system health too

So thank you so much for that question, I hope that I answered it to your satisfaction. If I didn’t, please let me know. Because so many different ways that question could have been interpreted.

And please, listener, if you have questions or comments or even stories, I’d love to hear them. You can record them anonymously, like this person did by using the Speak pipe button on the show’s web page, whatexcitesus.com or you can send me an email and please, please, please leave an honest review. Wherever you listen to your podcasts, it helps more than you know, and I read every one.

Hey folks, do you know that What Excites Us has a Patreon account? Well, we do. Are you familiar with Patreon yet? It’s a great way to directly support the people who enhance your life. There are artists, writers, podcasters, as well as many other types of creators and conversation makers who could use your help to continue to do great work, including me. You see, Gwyn Isaacs 26:20 I love making the show and yet I still need to earn a living. When you contribute to creators, they can keep producing the work you enjoy. And when you do become a patron of the Creator, your membership almost always involves perks. For instance, for only $6 a month, you get to hear the episodes of What Excites Us without any ads like this one, you will be invited into our private Facebook group, and you can message me from inside the Patreon app. If you love the show and can afford to support us for $99 a month you get all the perks, many of which I haven’t mentioned, including live regular video chats with me. No matter what level you come in on. You will have my undying appreciation and gratitude. And if you are among the first 15 people to join, you will get a never expiring coupon code for an extra 20% off your first merch purchase. Even if you come in on the level that already has 20% off. Merch is coming soon, I promise. So come join me on Patreon and tell me what excites you.

Gwyn 27:34
What Excites Us is written, edited and produced by me Gwyn Isaacs, the podcast is hosted by tickle.life who also hosts other podcasts and a bunch of other great content. If you would like to learn more about me, my coaching, or listen to past episodes, please visit earthlydesire.com that’s earthlydsire.com or you can get there by going to whatexcitesus.com to thanks for listening and if you enjoyed the show, please be sure you are subscribed so you don’t miss any and consider telling a friend and in case you weren’t sure, I really appreciate you. Thank you.

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