“Enjoy the little things in life…for one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault
- Do you frequently find yourself multitasking, or rushing around trying to get everything done?
- Do you spend a lot of time using your computer, tablet, or cell phone, or watching TV?
It’s important for each of us to take the time to slow down, turn off the technology, and allow ourselves to just enjoy the moment; we can help ourselves to do this by learning how to savor our positive experiences. Savoring the things we enjoy increases the pleasure we experience in the present moment. It also strengthens the brain wiring underlying our positive emotions, helps us to better manage stress, and promotes our overall happiness and well-being (see Happiness and Well-Being, part 3).
LEARNING TO SAVOR LIFE’S JOYS
Paying close attention to your senses, and to the experience of pleasure, is the key to savoring. To savor life’s joys, you need to actively allow yourself to bring about, appreciate, enhance and prolong your positive experiences, without guilt or feeling like you’re wasting time. Even if you already make a point of savoring special moments in your life, you can derive further benefit by also savoring positive things that you experience more regularly: the beauty around you; the music, sensations or tastes that you love; time spent with family or friends; and so forth. When you are savoring something, try not to analyze the experience, since that will diminish your pleasure. Instead, simply focus your attention on enjoying the experience.
Although savoring is a process that increases your pleasure in the present moment, the situation that you’re savoring doesn’t have to be occurring in the here and now: you can bring joy into the present moment by savoring the memory of a positive past experience, or by savoring the anticipation of a positive future event. Studies have found that each type of savoring is associated with unique benefits: people who are good at savoring positive experiences occurring in the present moment tend to show less susceptibility to guilt, shame and depressive feelings; those who are skilled at savoring memories of positive past experiences show reduced susceptibility to stress; and those who are adept at savoring the anticipation of positive future events show an increased level of optimism.
If you don’t naturally savor what’s positive in your life, it’s a habit that can be easily developed and incorporated into almost any lifestyle. What follows are some specific strategies that can help to promote savoring. Try out some of these approaches, and continue to use ones that you like. Adopting a variety of strategies will help to keep your experiences fresh and interesting.
Strategies that promote savoring:
Celebration – When you have worked hard for something or accomplished a goal, take time to really appreciate and celebrate your success. Do something special for yourself. You can involve others in this activity as well.
Sharpening perceptions – Focus on specific elements of your experience and block out other elements. For example, if you are eating a piece of chocolate, rather than eating it quickly without thinking as we often tend to do, slow down and really focus on the sensation. Put the chocolate in your mouth, close your eyes, feel of the chocolate on your tongue, and delight in the taste.
Absorption – Allow yourself to get totally immersed in an experience, and try not to think. Don’t think about other things you should be doing or focus on the ways in which the experience could be improved.
Memory-building –Studies have found that happier people have a habit of taking a mental snapshots of successes and positive experiences as they occur. By paying attention to the details and memorizing vivid images, it becomes easier to recall and enjoy the experiences later on. You can also build memories by taking actual photographs, or by journaling about an enjoyable event. Whether you use mental snapshots or physical keepsakes, this process allows you to more easily reminisce about it later and re-experience some of the pleasure you felt when it happened. [Next time we will further discuss the topic of savoring positive memories.]
Gratitude Journal (Counting Your Blessings) – Experiencing and expressing gratitude can be seen as a form of savoring, because you are recognizing the blessings in things that can otherwise be taken for granted. Gratitude can be about either significant or mundane things in your daily life, or it can be about the powerful emotional gifts you receive from connections with other people. The topic of gratitude has been the focus of a great deal of research in recent years, and there is simply no question that practicing gratitude can significantly contribute to happiness and well-being. A very useful gratitude activity is the gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal involves writing down three to five things in your life for which you are currently grateful. Lyubormirksy (2007) has found that the best frequency for keeping a gratitude journal is once a week. However, other people might get better results with different frequencies for journaling – anywhere from daily to bi-weekly, so choose whatever frequency works best for you. Other gratitude journaling strategies include: writing more detail about one specific thing or writing about what your life would be like without some of the blessings you have. Of course, you can try a mix of all these strategies.
Next Month: POSITIVE REMINISCENCE
REFERENCES AND SUGGESTED READINGS
Biswas-Diener, R. & Dean, B. (2009-05-18). Positive psychology coaching: Putting the science of happiness to work for your clients. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Biswas-Diener, R. & Diener, E. (2010-01-22). Happiness: Unlocking the mysteries of psychological wealth. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Bryant, F. B. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
Colman, J. (2012-10-16). Optimal functioning: A positive psychology handbook. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Fredrickson, B. (2009-01-27). Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Lyubomirsky, S. (2007-12-27). The how of happiness: a new approach to getting the life you want. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Seligman, M. E. P. (2002-10-02). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment. [Kindle Edition] Retrieved from Amazon.com
Happiness and Well-Being, Part 1: Can You Make Yourself Happier? Happiness and Well-Being, Part 2: Developing Happiness Habits Happiness and Well-Being, Part 3: Rewire Your Brain for Happiness
Happiness and Well-Being, Part 4: Cultivating Optimism Happiness and Well-Being, Part 5: Overcoming Pessimism and Self-Criticism Happiness and Well-Being, Part 6: Developing A Growth Mindset
“Savoring” by Audrey Berger, Ph.D. was originally published on the Transition Network website.