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A New Normal: Reassessing our relationship with pleasure

May 8, 2020 · 5 min read

In this week’s A New Normal, we’re taking a look at the (more) enjoyable behaviors and rituals that we’ve been adopting during quarantine, and how in this challenging time we’re reassessing our relationship with life’s pleasures.

Over Zoom, we spoke with seven people who are starting to think about pleasure differently and are re-evaluating their “vices.” From alcohol to cannabis to comfort food, they’re becoming less scrutinizing of themselves and others when it comes to finding joy in the everyday. We’re seeing a healthier embrace of pleasure in all its forms.

Shannon is turning to a new generation of gourmet takeout to make her weeknights memorable

An attorney based in Los Angeles, Shannon and her fiancé have shifted from choosing takeout as a backup to using it as a way to add excitement to the week. “It definitely feels more special and outside the norm. For our last date night, we picked up a fresh pasta kit from Roberta’s with an oxtail ragù that I would normally never be able to make at home. I love cooking but it gets to you after a while with all the prep, so it’s nice to have a night off — especially from a nicer place.” These delicious meals come with a bigger price tag, but they’re worth it to Shannon because they create moments of delight and help distinguish between the days that are otherwise blending together.

Caroline is savoring rather than staving off margaritas as her after-work wind-down

Like many of us, Caroline, a Director of Special Education at a charter school, used to have a series of rituals to help transition her into the evening following the work day — listening to a podcast on her commute home, going to yoga or a spin class, or talking to her mom on the phone while walking her dog. While the dog-walking is still possible, she’s not driving and gyms are still closed. Her alternative? At-home cocktails. While they are a treat, she’s embracing them as a positive addition to her routine:

Xander agrees that cocktails can shift your state — especially if they incorporate other mood-altering ingredients, like cannabis

“A cannabis apéritif provides the same ritual as making yourself a cocktail at the end of the day,” says Xander Shepherd, founder of the cannabis beverage company Artet. “It’s an off-ramp from the stress of your day and an onboard to relaxing. It’s a moment to wash away the day and the things that are plaguing you.” Unlike an alcohol-based cocktail, however, cannabis doesn’t give you a hangover, is better for your liver, and can help your sleep rather than hinder it. Xander has found many customers come to him looking for an alternative to alcohol, especially now as they find they’re drinking more during quarantine.


Taylor thinks that the classification of cannabis as ‘essential’ in this crisis speaks to how we’re recognizing its comforting benefits

“The fact that governments have deemed cannabis an essential service speaks volumes of its positive properties,” says Taylor, who works at Hotline, an agency specializing in PR and creative services for cannabis companies. “Being stuck at home affects us mentally, emotionally, and also physically, because we’re not moving like we used to — and cannabis can really help us with that.” To manage anxiety amidst these turbulent times, people are not just embracing cannabis, but cannabis in its most comforting forms. From ingestibles such as chocolates and gummies, to topicals such as lotions and bath balms, consumers are turning to a range of THC- and CBD-enhanced products.

Emily and Jason are welcoming happy hour at any hour

“When you’re working from home and you have kids, by 4pm you’re like ‘I can have a glass. I earned this,’” says Emily, a senior executive at a tech company and co-owner of Vinca Minor, an Oakland-based natural wine producer that she runs with her husband, Jason. With fewer plans to look forward to and juggle, wine has become a cornerstone of a relaxed reality. “Life has become extremely simple compared to what it was before,” says Emily. “There are so many fewer decisions made everyday — things are more contained — and in the absence of those other things you did, you just chat over some wine.”

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Vinca Minor

Nick is also turning to wine, as a way to set the stage for his virtual hangouts

“I’ve been drinking a ton of wine,” says Nick, a business development executive. “But it’s supplemented with something more productive. The biggest driver for me is the social element, and the fact that I’ve been able to maintain my social connections from afar.” Nick and his friends all buy the same bottle and discuss it as they drink — remotely — together.

In the midst of this pandemic, we’ve been giving ourselves more permission to enjoy life’s pleasures where we can find them. If we’re starting to detach the ‘guilty’ from the ‘pleasure,’ it’s possible that this shift might outlast quarantine and make us a more pleasure-forward society.

What categories could a pleasure-forward society impact?

Food: a role for undiluted indulgence 🍰

From low cal desserts such as Halo Top to low sugar candy like Smart Sweets, better-for-you treats were beloved. Now that people are craving food that dials up comfort and makes moments feel special, will we see a shift towards mindful indulgence options that fully satisfy?

Milk Bar

Alcohol: a return to full-proof spirits🍹

From low ABV offerings such as White Claw and Haus to non-alcoholic beverages like Seedlip and Kin, the spirits scene had seen an uptick in options formulated to reduce drinkers’ buzz. Now that we’re searching for a meaningful change in state to break up the course of our days, will we see a new appreciation for harder spirits (or cannabis spirits) that help us consciously unlock a different mood?

Entertainment: embrace of escapism 🏖

From beach reads to podcasts, many forms of content have been designed to be addictive — yet when it comes to TV shows and movies, the term “binge-watching” remains tinged with guilt. Now that we’re confined to our homes and craving ways to transport ourselves outside of our realities, will we fully embrace escapist entertainment as a form of self-therapy?

A New Normal is a series by Redscout, a strategy and design consultancy. The series examines how COVID-19 is changing the world and envisions how these shifts are reshaping our work and that of our collaborators, our clients, our friends. Sign up to the newsletter here.


Redscout is a strategy and design consultancy.

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