Simple pleasures of the modern age

British Psychological Society: Hedonistic urges of the Eighties boom give way t o a more sedate lifestyle
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The Independent Online
The hedonistic urges and over-consumption of the 1980s boom are consigned to history, and people of all ages now find gratification in the simple pleasures that life has to offer, psychologists said yesterday.

Solitude, listening to music, or the opportunity to curl up with a good book, are among the most desired pleasures, with most people eschewing drugs, drinking, and smoking.

Love and sex are highly prized but affection, cosiness, and the joy of "a nice cuddle" feature more frequently than erotic romps or pornographic literature in a survey of almost 400 people who were asked to detail their pleasures.

There were some bizarre pleasures listed, including a respondent who described how he enjoyed squeezing blackheads. Another took particular delight in the smell of summer rain on hot tarmac, while one man said he said he got pleasure from being miserable.

A romantic, but hardy soul, described how "making love in a snowy wood by moonlight" was high on his list of pleasures. One woman said that childbirth and the sensation of a warm, damp, child on her thigh was a source of great pleasure.

Dr Geoff Lowe, a lecturer in psychology at Hull University, said: "You might think that sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll are the bees knees, but for most people it is the simple, ordinary pleasures that are important."

Speaking on the final day of the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton yesterday, Dr Lowe said he was "fascinated by the wide range of things that people took pleasure in - the number of simple bodily pleasures that featured, a massage, having a bath, a swim, the feeling of water on the body".

Eating and drinking were mentioned frequently, and there were some examples of self-indulgence and hedonism but "no evidence that people were hell- bent on pleasure-seeking".

Having time to oneself was a recurring pleasure for both sexes, he added, and for the over-40s spending time with their families was important.

Younger people took more pleasure in sport and exercise. The enjoyment of nature and beautiful scenery appealed to all sexes and age groups.

The least frequently mentioned pleasures for both men and women included smoking, art (particularly among the under-40s) and humour.

Dr Lowe and his team analysed the reports of 387 contributors to the Mass Observation Archive at Sussex University, an ongoing project in which people from a variety of backgrounds, occupations, and locations, are regularly invited to write anonymously on a range of subjects.

He told the conference: "As psychologists, we focus on the darker side of life, the stresses and strains, but it doesn't do any harm to look at the lighter things.

"We got a lot of pleasure from it. You warm to the people who are writing about their pleasures in heart-felt and honest terms ...

"We should not be made to feel guilty about our pleasures."

Pleasures across the sex divide: What men like best Food and drink Music & reading Family & children.

What men like more than women Achievements Driving Humour Health Love & sex Memories Sport and exercise.

What women like best Family and children Food and drink Nature and scenery Entertainment and reading.

What women like more than men Cosiness Friends Home and garden Shopping Special occasions Spirituality and religion