Searching for pleasant sensations.
March 31, 2024 12:43 PM   Subscribe

My therapist advised me to do something that physically feels good every day. Baths feel nice to me, but I'm struggling to come up with other ideas, probably because my brain has been dulled by burnout. Any ideas?

Ideally, stuff that doesn't rely on good weather because it's not Summer yet (my other thoughts all seem to involve swimming/lying in the grass/playing on a beach).
posted by toucan to Health & Fitness (42 answers total) 64 users marked this as a favorite
Face masks
Eating a popsicle
posted by greta simone at 12:46 PM on March 31 [6 favorites]

I like candle/ insence/ essential oils alot but that can be really hit or miss with people for a variety of reasons. But for me a simple candle and some time to sit in front of it with a nice smell is very nice.

For some people the act of doing art can feel really nice, even if it's just coloring pages with crayons
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:48 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

- Masturbate/have sex

- Stretch

- Get a massage

- Go roller skating or rock climbing or bowling etc.

- Work out at a gym, take a yoga class or a pilates class, etc.

- Dance

- No, really, DANCE. It's empirically shown to be by far the most effective treatment for depression, even more reliably than SSRIs or CBT, even more reliable than other forms of exercise in conjunction with CBT. That's mind blowing.
posted by MiraK at 12:49 PM on March 31 [16 favorites]

Foot massager

Baths are too annoying to me (have to clean the tub first if it’s not been cleaned, too hot) but showers kick ass. Changing the shower head to something with massage pulse etc (and a high ie not eco friendly GPM flow rate) takes care of my plantar fasciitis and neck pain. Sometimes I just stand there for half an hour. (I don’t drive or have kids so I don’t feel as bad about this from an eco POV.)

Coconut smelling sunscreen right under the nose
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:52 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Dry brushing your skin
Having your hair washed and brushed by someone else
A nap
Eating gelato or ice cream
Tickle fights with someone you feel totally safe with
Self traction
posted by cocoagirl at 12:53 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

I enjoy the sensation of building legos or other models with hard, angular pieces. Repotting a plant, especially if it has thick, overgrown roots that I am trying to be gentle with, gives me a similar sense of physical satisfaction.

If you enjoy bathing, perhaps there's a hot spring or turkish bath or something near you that can provide a wider range of ancillary pleasures than taking a bath at home.
posted by Rinku at 12:53 PM on March 31

—Yoga or deep stretching session
—Do a neck self massage (YouTube has plenty to follow)
—Slowly enjoying a favorite beverage (tea/ coffee/ bubble tea/ hot chocolate/ matcha)
—lay down on a wood floor/ hard surface and relax your body
—put your hand into a tub of beans/ rice/ other satisfying thing
—scribble or draw or paint
—touch and take care of indoor plants if you have them
—hang upside down on the couch
—do a face or body scrub
—dry brush your body
posted by sucre at 12:55 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]

A nice warm facecloth on your face when you get home.
Warm tea!
The soften most luxurious blanket. That goes for all bedding! A new mattress?
A splurge hand cream that smells wonderful.
A plush and soft rug on the floor where you get out of bed.
A foot massager?
Warm lotion topped with some spa gloves.
Heating pad for almost not reason at all!
A neck/shoulder thing you can microwave and rest on shoulders.
posted by beccaj at 12:57 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]

Stroke a cat or a dog. Empirically proven to reduce stress and it's definitely a pleasant sensation.
posted by underclocked at 1:00 PM on March 31 [7 favorites]

Stroking your own hair! I feel silly doing it but it's so soothing. Scalp massage also feels good.
posted by wormtales at 1:04 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]

Hot pack on your neck, or other preferred location. There are microwavable hot pads or you can just heat up a moist towel in the microwave or by dipping it in a bowl of hot water.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:08 PM on March 31

If you have the time and money, any highly sensory creative hobby might be worth trying - textile arts/fiber arts (with soft fabric/thread/yarn and pretty colors!), musical instruments.

A walk can feel pleasant even if the weather isn't great.
posted by Jeanne at 1:15 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]

You might not need something as fancy as a foot massager. I find that just noticing the feeling of my feet against the ground is physically pleasurable and pressing/rubbing them with my hands is even more so.

If the temperature is pleasant, just standing outside and noticing the feel of the breeze against your skin is very nice. Or the feel of the sun warming you if it's a slightly cool day.

You could play with clay or play dough.

I also find this type of balance board physically enjoyable to use. A wobble board is not quite as enjoyable, but I'd still say it feels good.

There are not many things that feel as good as skating. Rollerblading and ice skating are both great. (Skiing is great too, but harder to fit into your life.)
posted by Redstart at 1:25 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

Bubble wrap
Setting up dominoes and knocking them down
Throwing rocks at a body of water
Make slime to play with
Go on a walk, ideally in a place where you can get chilly then go inside a heated place and then keep going in and out for max contrast, like if the mall was a sauna
Smell the books in the bookstore
Swing on the swings at a playground-- this is not weird if you go during the dinner hour when children are not there
posted by blnkfrnk at 1:33 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Are there textures you might enjoy? Like squeezing playdough through your fingers or running your hands through dry beans? How about touching a furry pet or a very soft stuffy?
posted by juliapangolin at 1:48 PM on March 31

Playing with this slug fidget toy. OMG it doesn't look satisfying, but I promise, IT IS. We now have maybe 8 (you can buy a multipack w savings) and they are glorious for kids and adults. RECOMMEND
posted by atomicstone at 2:16 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

atomicstone, your link intrigued me but I think it might have gotten munged - is it this?

Cevioce Sensory Slug Fidget Toy

Thanks for this really great AskMe, toucan!
posted by kristi at 2:53 PM on March 31 [4 favorites]

A walk can feel pleasant even if the weather isn't great.

Strongly agree. I'll add that one pleasure of regular walking is developing a deeper relationship with a place, even if it's as simple as your neighborhood. Walk the same route year-round, and you notice the minor (and major) changes throughout the seasons, days of the week, time of day, etc.
posted by coffeecat at 3:05 PM on March 31 [10 favorites]

Music, whatever kind you like, pop, classical, country, oldies from your youth. If you are looking specifically to be soothed, music meant for yoga or reiki is very chill, as is Gregorian/Benedictine chant.

ASMR - there are many different kinds, maybe try a few to see if something grabs you. I hate the fingernails tapping kind, but I love "wood soup" and ASMR-tagged art journaling videos.

White noise app: many of the apps have a variety of sounds to choose, not just white noise but also things like thunderstorm, crackling fire, etc.

Water fountain: the sound of trickling water is very pleasant. Get a tabletop one for home or go out into nature (very pleasant in and of itself, in nice weather) and sit by a stream or fountain.

Mood lighting: I bought a cheap light from Amazon that offers a variety of colored-light options such as green, blue, aqua, yellow, orange, purple. My favorite most soothing ones are aqua and light purple. You can also set it to shift through all the colors.

Things to smell: incense and scented candles can be a bit much for me, sometimes I get headaches or asthma from them. But I do like to keep scented soap in a drawer near my desk and I take it out and sniff it when I'm feeling the need for some sensory input.

Squishmallows plush animals are incredibly soft and pleasurable to touch and hold.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:12 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Very cheap and surprisingly restorative: lying on the floor and listening to music. Sometimes I find floor time more relaxing than a nap in bed.

Your physical capabilities may limit this, but worth a shot. (I felt very validated when NYTimes had an article on it recently. Here's a gift link)
posted by larthegreat at 3:32 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

I have made my bed an extremely comfortable and pleasant place to be, with sheets I enjoy feeling against my skin and keep me the right temperature, comfortable pillows, something to cuddle, and the things I need for comfort and pleasure within easy reach on my nightstand. This means I get to luxuriate a bit in pleasant sensations at the end of the day, and it really does help with recovery from the day.

Similarly, I have the softest electric blanket ever on my couch, which feels so nice against my skin even when it's off, and keeps me warm when I need it.

I get massages as often as I can afford it. When I don't want to spend the money or time on a full massage, a mani-pedi with a good foot and hand massage also works.

If food isn't problematic for you, having something you find really delicious on-hand -- or getting something that's really delicious but also special because it's seasonal or hard to get -- can also provide a wonderful sensual experience.

And yes, masturbation for sure if that's a thing you enjoy! But consider making it a special experience for yourself -- put on music, get comfortable, enjoy any erotic media you really like... whatever you find makes a pleasant environment for it, do that, and take your time.

And also yes, it's not novel and it's annoying, but I love the feeling of some types of movement and exercise, even though it's really stupid hard to initiate. Biking is a pleasurable sensation in and of itself for me (though that's more pleasant in nice weather), and so is lifting heavy weights and doing yoga-like stretches, if I am doing so in a way that lets me be gentle and deliberate and pursue what feels good and helpful.
posted by rhiannonstone at 3:36 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]

Nobody suggested flowers! Buy something every time you go to the grocery store. You don’t need to break the bank- carnations typically cost less than $5 and if you keep the water fresh and cut the stems a bit weekly, they last forever. I am still enjoying some that I bought in the middle of February. Also, even unscented flowers still smell fresh, so, smell’em!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:03 PM on March 31 [7 favorites]

I like tapping with my fingertips lightly on my collarbone and my sternum. Very calming and grounding.
posted by hilaryjade at 6:18 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Slowly peel a citrus fruit with a very sharp knife. Cut under the pith--shiny orange, lemon, grapefruit reveals itself. Smell the peel, feel the textures. Doesn't have to be compulsively all in one go to make a single strand of peel, enjoy the quiet time with the fruit.
posted by xaryts at 6:45 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

I have a heat pad that I stick under the covers on my side of the bed ~15 min before I get into it at night in the winter. Getting into a pre-warmed bed on a cold night feels very good.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:17 PM on March 31 [2 favorites]

also whatever you wear to bed right out of the dryer
posted by brujita at 8:35 PM on March 31 [3 favorites]

I just try to touch a different or new/novel texture every day. A pinecone, a dried apricot. A wall with stucco that looks different. A ridiculously fluffy blanket in a shop or, “Can I pet your dog?” for those so inclined. It’s free and it forces me to be aware of my surroundings.
posted by Juniper Toast at 9:24 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Lie in bed under a silky heated blanket and eat a delicious snack!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 10:18 PM on March 31

Wash and dry your sheets, then iron them and spray with your favorite fragrance.

Eat a ridiculously spicy meal and then cool down with an ice-cold martini.

Fuzzy socks.

Tingly balm for sore muscles.

Jade roller for your forehead and under eyes.
posted by mezzanayne at 10:30 PM on March 31 [1 favorite]

Make bread - you get to enjoy both the kneading and the smell of it baking.

Or make chocolate, including the tempering on a marble slab. I really enjoy feeling the viscosity change as the crystals form. And then you get to eat the chocolate!
posted by demi-octopus at 1:15 AM on April 1 [1 favorite]

Seconding head massage, using one of these. Iced face massage balls. Someone I know uses heat rub for this. Thirding walks in bad weather. Planting seeds (in pots if bad weather) - the feel of soil can be good. Acupressure mat.
posted by paduasoy at 1:45 AM on April 1

What I call “cricket legs,” or shaving/hair removal from legs and moisturizing them and then they kind of glide over each other when in bed.

What I like about this is that it feels good from the start- there are no mental tricks of “if I start on this walk, I’ll feel better at the end.” (True, but that’s hard to do as a starting point.
posted by raccoon409 at 3:51 AM on April 1

Is there an indoor pool nearby, preferably one with salt water rather than chlorinated water? And maybe the same place has some gentle exercise classes for you to check out.
posted by mareli at 4:45 AM on April 1

It might be placebo effect but I really like my jade roller and spraying my face with thermal water spray.

Also face masks and skin treatments (especially putting them in the fridge first).

Applying thick moisturizer or also gentler, sweet-smelling oils like coconut and almond oil.
posted by lizard2590 at 12:46 PM on April 1

Wrapping yourself in a soft blanket, or a sweater / hoodie, or even just touching one. Giving yourself a hug with a warm towel fresh from the dryer.
posted by Lady Li at 9:38 PM on April 1

A weighted blanket
A cup of hot fragrant tea or infusion
A very fruity sorbet
posted by meijusa at 5:37 AM on April 2

Andrea Nelson art on YouTube does really nice anxiety art - easy, fun and quite impressive.
posted by Enid Lareg at 7:58 AM on April 2

Using a foam roller
Taking the time to apply a luxurious moisturizer
Sensory touch items like kinetic sand or bubble wrap
Gentle stretching
Dry brushing
Getting a massage / pedicure / manicure
Laying naked on or under a soft/fuzzy blanket
Walking barefoot on grass
Use a scalp massager
Roll a tennis ball on your back muscles
Have a cup of warm tea while wrapped In a comfy blanket
Bounce on a trampoline
Laugh (find something that amuses you)
Flip through pages and smell an old book.
Burn a candle
Eat something texturally satisfying (crunchy or creamy or with a fun texture like tapioca pudding or popping boba)
Put a hot towel on your face
Crush something crunchy like pinecone, leaves or even aluminum cans.
Sit by a fire if you can (firepit or fireplace)
Do breathing exercises, fully expanding your ribs and belly
Dance to your favorite music
posted by CleverClover at 8:34 PM on April 2

Response by poster: Many thanks! A lot of these ideas got me really excited. I have a designated "Pleasant Moment" time every day, and I think I'll be able to easily pick the day's sensation from a list of your ideas now. Love that many of them are very simple. Interestingly, I never think of food and drink as being pleasant, but you're totally right. Of course it feels satisfying to eat raspberry ice cream, or have a hot chocolate, or notice crunchy textures at dinnertime. I feel inspired to try out all these different sensations and have already danced, hugged my dogs, and lit a candle. Thank you for sharing your time and brainpower!
posted by toucan at 9:43 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

I've thought about your question. I experience depression and lack of joy/ pleasure sometime. It's possible to renew your appreciation of things you already do. To help my sleep, I notice how cozy my bed is with flannel sheets, how quickly the comforter and blankets warm it up. I try to have my 1st cup of coffee in quiet, and the 1st few sips of hot, slightly sweet coffee just taste great and feel really good.

I bought some foaming bath balls. They smell good, and they're mostly Epsom/ magnesium salts that ease muscles, promote sleep and calm and make the water feel slippery. I light a candle or several in the bathroom, have a cup of my favorite tea, and appreciate the sensations. The towel feels great on my skin when I get out.

I try to avoid sugar, but an occasional treat that has some custard or whipped cream can really be savored. So can a simple baked potato with sour cream, some strawberries dipped in brown sugar. Peel and section an orange, it smells amazing and the taste is really amazing. Peel a ripe avocado and salt it and appreciate the texture. We have access to daily luxuries that were more rare when I was young, and incredibly rare or nonexistent for my parents. Really notice and savor the things that are in your life.
Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 6:22 PM on April 3

Mod note: Hi, this thread has been included in a roundup of recent Ask Me recommendations, on both the sidebar and Best Of blog!
posted by Brandon Blatcher (staff) at 6:09 AM on April 5

Yes, kristi, your correct link is what mine meant to be re the fidget slugs.
It does make a (quite quiet) noise when moved. A satisfying, chill tink tink tink. So not a silent fidget, but pretty quiet.
posted by atomicstone at 1:27 AM on April 11

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