The pleasant list

Image © Cardigan&Mac

In our recent interview, behavioural scientist Aline Holzwarth introduced me to the concept of the ‘Pleasant Events Schedule’ – a list of simple, widely-enjoyed activities – used in clinical psychology. 

I was curious to find out more, so this week I’ve been doing some reading… 

The idea is simple: that doing things we enjoy (however small or apparently insignificant), can improve our mood and our perceived quality of life. In the early 1970s, researchers compiled a list of hundreds of pleasurable activities (as suggested by a diverse range of people) – which you can find towards the end of this document.

With an eclectic mix of entries ranging from ‘breathing clean air’, ‘caring for houseplants’ and ‘doing artwork’ to ‘being stubborn’, ‘scratching myself’ and ‘shoplifting’, it’s an entertaining read if you have a few moments to spare.

It seems that we tend to feel happier when we regularly include our favourite ‘Pleasant Events’ in our daily lives, however we often neglect to do this when life gets tough. For this reason, the ‘Pleasant Events Schedule’ is often recommended as a tool for easing symptoms of depression and improving quality of life amongst carers and people living with chronic illnesses.

Inspired by all I’ve read, I’ve started making a list of my own. It includes many items taken from the original document, including:

  • taking a nap
  • playing basketball
  • smiling at people
  • learning to do something new

However I’ve thought up several new ones I want to include too:

  • talking to guinea pigs
  • looking at colourful things
  • making up nonsense songs with my teenage son
  • going for walks in the pouring rain, just for the joy of getting warm and dry again afterwards

I haven’t started using it yet, but simply compiling the list seems to be a cheering activity in its own right. I can recommend it.

So if you were to create a list, what would you include?