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From Instant Gratification to True Joy

I have just recently become aware that in certain circumstances, I’m choosing immediate gratification over true joy. I’m choosing what is easy in the short term rather than experiencing a smidge of discomfort when I pursue something outside of my ordinary. Let me explain.

Today, I’m beginning a three month challenge for myself. I’ve let myself off the hook so many times in so many areas in my life and I want that to stop. I want to build my trust with myself. So, for the next three months I’ve committed to writing twice every week, even if it is only one paragraph. But I know, and perhaps you do too, that getting started is the hardest part. Once I’ve begun, I will likely write out all my thoughts on a subject at that time.

What does this have to do with seeking instant gratification instead of joy? Well, the instant gratification of sitting and watching youtube videos in the time slot that I’ve committed to writing is pleasurable! I don’t have to work. I don’t have to think. I can sit back and be entertained, even motivated. But when my free time is over and I have to start cooking dinner, I experience a low level of dissatisfaction because I know I squandered my time. I know I let myself down. I chose the easy way in the moment and prevented the satisfaction of a job well done.

The easy way out might not be watching youtube, but it could be something productive. For a girl like me, productivity is really pleasurable, but it is also my favorite form of procrastination. I can procrastinate my day away cleaning the house, organizing a space, or, and this one is my favorite, PLANNING to write or create content. It feels so good to create plans do something, but I’ve learned that even planning is just another form of procrastination if I don’t apply myself to the plans. If I don’t keep my word to myself about what I’ve said I’m going to do.

And that’s the real joy. Putting my effort into something that I said I wanted to do, and keeping my word to myself. When I don’t sacrifice my goals to the siren call of doing literally anything other than what I’ve said I’m going to do, I experience the true joy of applying myself.

Here is another example.

To look at me you may not think I was a junk food addict. But I was. I “saved” my calories for junk food or alcohol every day. Because eating cupcakes and Doritos and washing it down with a craft beer is the height of pleasure! But it’s really not. We all know this. How I feel after doing that to my body is pretty darned crappy. What added to my pain was the broken promise to myself that I was not going eat like that today.

Don’t we start the day with the best intentions? We tell ourselves things like, “I’m going to eat foods that fuel my body and don’t detract from my health!” But then something happens. We allow ourselves to get into a bad mood and “need” cake to get out of it. Or something good happens, like it being a random Tuesday night, so we should reward ourselves with an extra beer. (Come on, it’s not just me that rewards herself on a random Tuesday, right?) It was to the point that I habitually accepted junk foods as a standard part of my daily life without a second thought. I relented to the pleasurable. And then I felt miserable.

But then I went to the doctor and learned that my hypothyroidism was back. I knew it was already, because I was feeling pretty sluggish for a few months. If you aren’t familiar, people with hypothyroidism should be on a gluten free diet. My diet consisted of almost nothing but refined carbohydrates. I needed a change and I did not think I could do it. My experience told me I could not trust myself to do this. We all tell ourselves we will “stop” when our health is on the line, but we have no problem building ourselves into sickness because “today is not that day”. Until it is.

So, I am now on a gluten free diet (again). In order to make the change more tolerable for me, I paired it with one meal a day style of intermittent fasting. I only have to think about what I’m going to eat once a day, and it has been revolutionary. Instead of counting (and thinking about) all of my calories all day long just to binge on junk food at the end of the night, I now eat once a day, around 3:30 in the afternoon. I consume all of the calories I need for the day in a balanced way and I FEEL AMAZING. I allow myself to have a dessert at this time after I have met the macros my body really needs. Usually, I can only manage a couple of bites because I am STUFFED from food that is good for me.

This is joy for me. Saying no to food that harms my body isn’t hard anymore because I learned how to live through the discomfort of the unpleasurable. It was in the understanding that it was going to be hard to make the change and the acceptance of that pain that paved the way for this way of eating to become a no brainer. I also thought about how Jesus might have eaten. He probably ate one or two meals a day, and spent the rest of the day being active. Somehow, it helps me to think about that.

It was hard for the first few weeks. But I have built some trust with myself. I have learned that I can do hard things. I experience joy because of how my brain fog has totally cleared. I am not thinking about food all day long, and that feels great! My doctor is very happy with my progress.

What about you? In what ways are you giving in to the immediate gratification of pleasure instead of experiencing momentary discomfort for the sake of true joy? How can you learn to live with something “hard” for the satisfaction of a job well done?

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