"Would you rather give up your cellphone or sugar for a week?" a friend recently asked me. Without hesitation, I chose sugar. My initial thought was that if I sacrificed sugar, there would still be plenty of substitutes available—honey, stevia, agave—and I wouldn't actually have to give up my desserts. But upon further reflection I realized that if I gave up sugar, I could amp up the other areas of sweetness in my life to compensate; and these areas have nothing to do with food.
Sweetness is something we all desire and need, especially when times are bitter, sour and bland. But because sweetness has a bit of a bad rap ("nice," "simplistic") or can be overdone ("saccharine," "cloying"), many of us may see this craving in a negative light. That negative stigma can prevent us from treating our need for sweetness with the respect and attention it deserves. And sadly, ignoring our need for sweetness may actually drive us to overindulge in sugary food.
Sweetness often arrives in the form of a fleeting moment or activity that gives us some form of pleasure. You've probably had a sweet moment at some point today; for me, it was a stranger who smiled and held the subway door for me as I was running to the train. Ask yourself, what truly brings you joy? Knowing what you enjoy in life—and experiencing those joys regularly—can provide comfort, and help to rebound from difficult or tedious times.
If you want to bring more sweetness into your life, here are four ideas to help you get started:
Engage Your Senses
Physical acts—hugging loved ones, petting cats, rubbing your dog’s ears or belly, digging in dirt—can help us cultivate warmth and softness. Our other senses are equally important: listening to good music, laughing with friends and family, seeing the sun rise or set or watching a silly video.
Many of us get a sweet boost from sending texts and photos to friends and loved ones, particularly those who live far away. These brief exchanges can elicit immediate feelings of connection and build and strengthen loving relationships.
We all have the power to create sweetness in our lives and in the lives of others by choosing to be kind to another person. It can be a random act of kindness or a very deliberate one. Giving and receiving sweet interactions with others can make us feel more alive and more socially connected.
Getting a good night’s sleep can make life infinitely sweeter. A power nap can too, when you really need it. But let’s not forget daydreams. Channel your imagination and dream up something positive and refreshing. Adult daydreaming can be sweet stuff. Here are two techniques to get you started.
Ask yourself: What would I like more of in my life? Examples might include love, a new job, friends, or to do a headstand. Now close your eyes and imagine yourself experiencing your heart’s desire. Indulge in your vision, and what you hear and feel from the daydream, for as long as you like.
Another way to use your imagination to access feelings of warmth and fulfillment is to see yourself through the eyes of the person who loves you most. Can you take a step out of yourself and stand in their shoes? What do you notice when you look at yourself through their eyes? Chances are, it feels pretty sweet and softens you up for a nicer moment, hour, day or year.