Pleasure & Health

Magnificent Article on Pleasure by Christiane Northrup, M.D.

Listen closely. I want to tell you the best-kept health secret on the planet. Ready? Here it is: Pleasure is an essential nutrient that you need, each and every day, to become and remain healthy. Please read that again. And think of the last time you really took the time to feel and soak in pure pleasure. 

I know, I know. You think you’re too busy. Or you’ve been brought up to believe the “no pain, no gain” theory of health, right? Me, too. The problem is that it’s wrong. And also deadly. No pain, no gain simply leads to more suffering over the long haul, usually in the form of drugs, alcohol, smoking, or overeating to “take the edge off” the pain and import pleasure from outside. 

As an OB/GYN physician with years of experience with mind/body medicine, I want women everywhere to know about the health-enhancing benefits of pleasure. So I’ve put together this mini-health course on pleasure for you. Enjoy!

Principle One: Know what Pleasure ISN’T.

Pleasure isn’t about the unbridled consumption of drugs, alcohol, sugar, or sex. (This is what often passes for pleasure in our culture.) That’s just addiction—using a substance (sugar) or a process (cleaning, work, or exercise) to cover up genuine feelings. Nor am I suggesting that you suddenly leave your work or family responsibilities while you go off to dance the night away. Shirking genuine responsibilities undermines sustainable pleasure.

Principle Two: Pleasure is a discipline.

Pleasure takes practice. And it’s not necessarily easy. Why? Because we live in a pleasure-starved culture that worships pain and suffering. Some people even believe that suffering is holy. Nearly every one of us has been led to believe that suffering and martyrdom actually buy you something, that they make you a better person somehow. No one on this planet gets off without some pain and suffering. That’s for sure. But making pain and suffering a way of life—and being proud of it—does nothing but cause more pain and suffering. Have you ever worked in a job where everyone brags about how much work they have to do? How busy they are? Have you ever found yourself trying to “up” the ante of suffering by saying something like “You think you’ve got it bad? Listen to what happened to me…”

Okay—now that I’ve addressed the dominant culture, let’s let the fun begin:

Principle Three: Trust your desires.

Desire is what created your body in the first place!!! You were conceived with an orgasm (even if it was only your father’s). The universe itself started with a big bang. Your specific desires are how God/Goddess/ Your Higher Power/The Universe speaks to you and tells you what will bring you maximal fulfillment. Your specific desires aren’t selfish. Their fulfillment is designed to uplift the entire planet.

Principle Four: Thoughts create! Change the ones that aren’t pleasurable.

Every thought you think creates a specific biochemical reaction in your body. The heart (the center of emotions) has an electromagnetic field that is hundreds of times more powerful than the electromagnetic field of the brain. That means that your emotions always win—even when they are fighting with your intellect. (Want the science on this? Read Gregg Braden’s book, The Divine Matrix.) Your power to live a pleasurable, prosperous life lies in your willingness to focus your attention on thoughts, people, places, and events that are joyful, fun, sexy, and uplifting.

For example, if you say, “I am a highly desirable, sexy woman,” you get a vibe that makes you feel more attractive and makes your body feel younger and more vibrant. The actual physical biological backdrop to that includes the release of a chemical called nitric oxide from the lining of the blood vessels. This molecule is literally the “spark of life.” High levels of it are produced by a healthy, pleasurable lifestyle, including pleasurable thoughts and experiences. Orgasm is also accompanied by a big blast of health- giving nitric oxide. And guess what else. High nitric oxide levels result in increased levels of feel-good chemicals like serotonin and beta endorphin (a natural, morphine-like substance produced by all things pleasurable). High levels of pleasure (and nitric oxide) will provide you with increased blood flow to your breasts and to all other internal organs (including the vagina). You also experience enhanced parasympathetic nervous system tone which relaxes your muscles.

In contrast, if you think, “I am over 50. What man would ever want me?,” you begin to feel old and unattractive. The following then occurs in your body: All those feel-good chemicals and high levels of nitric oxide are replaced by high levels of stress hormones (cortisol and epinephrine) and these hormones, in turn, actually increase cellular inflammation, which is the basis for ALL diseases. Yes, you heard me—ALL diseases. Plus, this kind of non-pleasurable thought, and the stress that goes along with it, actually enhances your chances of cancer, heart disease, and everything else. But that’s not all. Because of the effects of cortisol on blood sugar and insulin, this kind of stressful thought—and the behavior that it leads to—actually results in weight gain!

Are you convinced yet about why pleasure is so crucial to health?

Principle Five: Orgasm is the physical metaphor for how pleasure works in the body and in life.

To experience an orgasm, you must surrender to pleasure and approval. You can’t experience an orgasm by willing it with your intellect. You must get out of your head and into your body. Women were born for orgasms. Why? Because we have a clitoris—the only organ in the body whose sole purpose is pleasure. This organ contains 8,000 nerve endings—all devoted to pleasure. 

Orgasm is how the body resets its electromagnetic grid and maintains vibrant health and pleasure. In order to feel joy and pleasure daily, our brains need a constant supply of beta-endorphin, that morphine-like feel-good chemical I mentioned earlier. Because nitric oxide is the uber neurotransmitter that is responsible for all the other feel-good neurotransmitters like beta endorphin, you need to follow a pleasure-enhancing lifestyle that keeps your nitric oxide levels high. If you don’t get pleasure deliberately and healthfully, your body will get its beta endorphin through drugs, alcohol, or sugar.

The safe, healthy, and effective ways to get high levels of beta endorphin (as well as serotonin, and dopamine), include regularly exercise, meditation, and orgasm. (Anything that you get excited about works well too—even volunteering!!) Regular orgasm is a sure fire way to increase nitric oxide in the body and also beta-endorphin. This chemical not only enhances mood, it is also a natural pain killer. It helps you deal with the stresses of life.

Every time you feel pleasure in your clitoral area, you are also flooding your body with life-giving nitric oxide. (By the way, all the erection-inducing drugs work by increasing the flow of nitric oxide to the male penis.) And one more thing—there is a very strong connection between a woman’s breasts and her clitoris. Nipple stimulation, which also helps breast health, not only enhances sexual pleasure and increases blood flow to the genitals, it also increases prolactin in the body. Prolactin is a “bonding “ hormone that lowers blood pressure and makes us feel happy, safe, and secure. Prolactin levels are enhanced by sexual activity, breast feeding, childbirth, and good times with friends! 

A woman who is in touch with her pleasure regularly is also able to turn on a man. She actually becomes “virtual Viagra.” (I’ve met women whose husbands no longer suffered from erectile dysfunction once their wives remembered how to feel more pleasure in their own lives. A woman’s ability to feel and receive pleasure literally “rubs off” on her man.) By the way, only 25% of women experience orgasm regularly through intercourse. The rest need more intense clitorial stimulation, either manually or orally. It is entirely possible to enhance your body’s ability to experience more feeling during orgasm. You simply use the law of attraction as it applies to your body’s sensations. The more you approve of and feel every stroke, the more you’ll be capable of feeling. I recommend that you follow the instructions in the book, Extended Massive Orgasm, by Steve and Vera Bodansky.

Principle Six: Increasing your pleasure will bring up your resistance.

This is true whether you are “trying” to reach orgasm or to have more fun in life. Expect this and rejoice. Resistance just means that more pleasure is on the way! Resistance shows up as anger, judgment, guilt, grief, doubt, etc. Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, calls this the “pain body.” The pain body can’t survive in the face of sustainable pleasure. So here’s my advice: Feel your grief, your anger, and sadness. Dance with it. Honor it. And then go have an orgasm to reset your ability to receive even more pleasure and health. Make this a habit.

In the past few years as I have actively sought to bring more pleasure into my own life, I’ve seen enormous benefits in my health on all levels. The same is true with my daughters and with the hundreds of other women who’ve been with me on this path of pleasure—much of which has been inspired by Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.

The first time I attended a session at the School of Womanly Arts back in the spring of 2006 and watched women say “Yes” to themselves and their lives, I had the sneaking suspicion that this work could heal the body. So when I got up to give my presentation, I asked which participants had experienced healing or improvement of any health conditions while participating in the curriculum. More than a dozen hands flew up. As I had these women come to the stage and tell their stories, I heard about how pleasure had helped relieve everything from migraine headaches to lupus. I wasn’t surprised. Pleasure, after all, is accompanied by all kinds of health-enhancing chemicals in the body.

This is what I want to leave you with: Your own life is the only thing on the planet that you can possibly control and influence. You want to help the world heal? Me, too. So let’s go out together and make happiness, pleasure, and joy a top priority. The more women who do this, the faster the planet heals. We have nothing to lose except our suffering—and a few excess pounds!

CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP, M.D., is a visionary pioneer and the world’s leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness. A board-certified ob-gyn physician who graduated from Dartmouth Medical School and did her residency at Tufts–New England Medical Center, Dr. Northrup was also an assistant clinical professor of obstetrics-gynecology at Maine Medical Center for 20 years. Recognizing the unity of body, mind, and spirit, she helps empower women to tune in to their innate inner wisdom to positively transform their health.

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