Have you ever admired a beautiful sunset? Or revelled in the feeling of soaking in a warm bubble bath? Or maybe just enjoyed a delicious meal? If yes, you were practicing the art of savouring.
But what exactly IS savouring?
Savouring is being mindfully aware of your feelings during pleasant experiences, and deliberately doing something to either amplify or extend your enjoyment of those experiences. We can savour experiences from the past (e.g. reminiscence), present (e.g. savouring the moment), or the future (e.g. anticipation).
Fred Bryant is a social psychologist at Loyola University Chicago, and is considered the father of research on savouring. He describes savouring as similar to “….tasting the goodness [in a positive moment]…you can swish it around like a fine wine in your mind, and you could sip it or gulp it,” and his research has shown links between savouring and high levels of life satisfaction, self-esteem, optimism, and frequency of happiness. A research team in Belgium also found that using a variety of savouring strategies can be more beneficial to overall happiness than just using a few specific strategies.
In their 2006 book Savoring: A new model of positive experience, Bryant and co-author Joseph Veroff describe 10 concise ways that we can develop our savouring skills.
Sharing with others
One of the first things we like to do when we get good news, is to share it with someone who’s important to us, such as a partner, close friend, or family members.
Research has shown that when we capitalize on positive experiences by sharing them with someone, well-being and positive emotions are increased, over and above the impact of the positive event. And when we perceive that others respond positively and constructively to our good news, the benefits are multiplied.
This can be as simple as pausing for a moment to take a mental photograph (or an actual photograph) of something that we want to remember later, such as a heart-warming moment between loved ones, or the sound of their laughter.
We can include savouring moments in our daily activities, such as consciously looking for good things while taking a walk.
It’s a good idea to savour your successes by giving yourself a pat on the back and taking credit for your hard work.
Self-congratulation is not encouraged in all cultures, particularly Eastern ones, where it is more customary to downplay personal achievements. Self-congratulation may also feel somewhat challenging for people who have humility as one of their signature strengths, so even giving yourself a small mental nod of appreciation is still flexing your savouring muscles.
As with any positive psychological activity, you can choose the ones that resonate with you.
Honing-in on your sensory experiences, or using your senses more consciously, is another way to develop your savouring skills.
One of the easiest ways to do this is when you’re eating. Slow down during meals and really focus on the food – smell the aromas, really look at your food, close your eyes when you are eating.
This technique can also be applied to other sensory experiences, e.g. closing your eyes while smelling a fine wine, enjoying a massage or warm bath, or listening to music.
We can boost our positive feelings by making ‘downward’ comparisons. For example, if you are feeling stressed at work, remind yourself that you DO have a job, or think of those who may not have a job.
Research suggests that people get the most enjoyment from experiences when they allow themselves to become totally absorbed in the task or in the moment. This also often involves losing your sense of time and place, and is a state that psychologists refer to as “flow” – you are completely immersed in what you are doing.
Children are naturally adept at this, but as adults, we tend multitask and get distracted by things going on around us.
This can be as simple as smiling or laughing when something good happens, or something more exuberant like jumping for joy! Outwardly expressing your positive feelings can give the mind evidence that something good has happened.
Being mindful of how quickly time flies, and remembering to savour the good moments as they’re happening can help you to enjoy them even more.
We can savour positive experiences from the past, by recreating a happy moment with our imagination. We can also savour future positive experiences by imagining something good happening or anticipating something we’re looking forward to.
There are many opportunities for us to take a moment and appreciate something good in our lives. We can express to our loved ones how blessed we feel to have them, or we can take time to appreciate a delicious meal before eating. Even expressing our enjoyment of a beautiful day out loud helps to affirm our positive feelings and savour them.
Avoiding kill-joy thinking
Avoiding or transforming negative thinking is just as important as thinking positively.
We can do this by savouring the positive aspects of a situation, or by cultivating optimistic thinking. We can also take a step back from our troubles and take a “big picture” view of the situation, reminding ourselves that whatever it is will pass, and in a month, six months, or a year from now, we may not even remember the upset.
“Wise savouring does so in a way that hurts no-one, and helps the individual and broadens social relationships” — Fred Bryant