Even reading the word can make a body relax, like seeing a hammock under a tree, or hearing the clink of ice in a glass.
Savoring is when we bring awareness to something in a way that actually enhances our enjoyment. It is what we do to make something good even better. Savoring is mindfulness at its most pleasurable. That's why it's a cheap thrill. Savoring costs us nothing, and yet it delivers an amazing benefit.
So why don't we savor more? It turns out that people actually get paid to study this. (Why didn't your career counselor tell you about this option?) Fred B. Bryant is one of the leaders in this area, having studied the subject for over 20 years. He co-authored the book, Savoring, A New Model of Positive Experience. His work along with others is also reported in the more accessible The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky.
You can think of savoring as the Vitamin C of our emotional well-being. Savoring is positively correlated with many positive things: creating strong relationships with friends and family, physical and mental health, creativity, making meaning, and spiritual experiences.
Like Vitamin C, the sources for savoring are abundant in this culture; however, there are some fairly significant barriers as well. Multi-tasking is at the top of the list. Contrary to popular belief, multi-tasking requires us to quickly shift our attention from one thing to another. In doing so, there is almost no opportunity to focus long enough on any one thing to engage in savoring.
There are other attitudes and behaviors that can make savoring difficult, such as being busy with one activity right after another, or feeling overwhelmed with our attention drawn either toward regretting the things not done or anticipating things yet to do. It is also challenging to savor something we do regularly because of what is known as hedonic adaptation. This is the phenomenon whereby over time we experience less pleasure for the same stimulus. It explains why the first sip of beer, the first bite of cake, and our first kiss are usually better than the last.
What's a person to do? Perhaps it's time to don the cape with the gold "S" for "Captain Savor!" People who consciously and regularly undertook one or more of the following activities were able to move mountains, find great parking spaces, and reported being happier than those who didn't. Okay, the first two findings are exaggerated, but people who made the effort were happier than those who didn't do these things, and happier than they were before they did them.
Eating, showering, breathing, stretching, looking at a loved one, talking to a friend, smelling a flower, smiling. Make your own list. A good way to start is to spend a moment each night to recall your favorite part of that day. This can help you focus on savoring an experience even more with your next opportunity.
Actively reminiscing about the good old days and positively imagining what is to come are two ways of enhancing the present. Sharing these past and future good times with other folks serves to further heighten your savoring experience.
Recognizing our own accomplishments and those of others is another means of savoring the many wonderful things about ourselves, our family, and our friends. Create your own events, holidays (they are almost all made up anyway!), and reasons to express gratitude towards yourself and the others in your life.
See the splendor, hear the beauty, feel the sweat, taste the sweetness, smell the roses. It just doesn't get any better than this.
By becoming aware of the transitory nature of life, we can learn to appreciate the present even more. Remember that kids grow up, friends move on, our bodies succumb to gravity, and the movie ends.
Find something that totally absorbs your attention in a positive way. Call it a hobby. Do it often.
Seriously. If you feel a bit self-conscious, you can try clapping enthusiastically. Now, can I hear a "Hallelujah?" Physically expressing joy, especially in the presence of others, leads to some serious savoring.
By slowing down your pace, even for a brief time, you will create the space and time to bring your awareness to the present moment. Notice what is good about it, and simply breathe into it.
Note that each and every one of these things is completely free, and you already have everything you need. No purchase necessary! Everybody's a winner! Enter as often as you like!
Cheap thrills indeed.
Fred Bryant wrote an article (no longer on the web) with a brief and thoughtful summary of his suggestions for how to enhance savoring. In two blog posts (1 & 2), Patrice Koeper outlined Bryant's ten ways to intensify and prolong the good things in life.
Flex those savoring muscles. Pick just one of the strategies listed, and try it out for a week. See if you can experience at least one savoring moment each day. Heck, they're cheap; go for two. Here are a few examples we've been trying recently.
- Savoring lunch. It's a break. The food is good. Sometimes the sun is even shining.
- Smelling spring. There are some really great smells out there right now!
- Looking through old stuff, sorting for clutter, and sharing with each other some of the
- Really celebrating birthdays. Making fun gifts, spending more time with folks, and telling
them in some detail what they mean to us.
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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