Caren Osten

The Right Balance

How Savoring Will Save You from Missing Out

Strategies to help you make the most of a good moment.

Posted Jun 20, 2018

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Happiness does not consist of things themselves but in the relish we have of them.                                –de la Rochefoucauld

When I was in college, my roommates used to make fun of me for my ability to multitask. On one particular day, I literally sat on an exercise bike, pedaling to burn calories, while studying from a textbook and listening to music on my headphones. Back then, it seemed an efficient way to get things done. It’s been a long time since I was in college, and as a result of my meditation practice and my positive psychology training, I now strive to be a monotasker—to do one thing at a time. And when it’s something I enjoy and that feels good, I make an effort to bask in the moment, savoring the good feelings that go with that experience.

Chances are you’ve savored the wafting aroma of coffee brewing. Or a breathtaking glow of pink and orange hues during a sunset. Or the melody of a song so amazing that you need to close your eyes to take it all in?

Savoring is not a new idea, and its origins date back to ancient times when savoring—or fully appreciating a taste, smell, or sight, for example—was considered wise. More recent research supports this notion and reaches further, revealing that savoring positive emotions is a strategy that can optimize your health and well-being. More specifically, the benefits of savoring include stronger relationships, improved mental and physical health, and increased creativity in solving problems.

In today’s busy world, however, we are pulled in so many directions that we often forget or forego the savoring—we simply have too many emails to respond to and tweets to read, among a million other things. The good news is that savoring positive experiences can be learned, like playing the piano, and if you practice, you’ll improve. So take a deep breath, slow down and open up to your positive experiences by stopping to savor the moment. Savoring not only cultivates positive emotions in the present, but also builds resources for coping—connecting us to moments in the past, present or imagined future that give us an emotional boost when we are in need.

Strategies to Help You Savor

1. Share Your Experience

Calling attention to an experience as it’s happening is an invitation to others to participate in it with you—making it an opportunity to savor, increase connection, and deepen relationships. During a recent yoga class, my teacher, Jennifer Monness, suggested that we “savor the sweetness of the breath.” Her advice propelled me to close my eyes and focus on the warm feeling of my breath as it moved in and out of my body, while knowing that the other yogis were savoring the same sweetness I was. Who knows? Your positive experience may just be contagious.

2. Express Gratitude

When you feel and express thanks, you are recognizing an appreciation of something, or someone, that’s positive. Pausing to reflect on your good fortune in a particular moment is a form of savoring, as it increases your enjoyment of the good things in life. Send a text expressing your appreciation for something, or hug someone you love, and notice the positive feeling in that moment.

3. Shout it Out

Laugh out loud, jump up and down, and shout for joy when something good happens to you,” says Fred Bryant, a professor and social psychologist at Loyola University in Chicago. Those who openly share their positive feelings tend to feel extra good, as it offers the mind evidence that a positive experience has happened.

4. Give Yourself Permission to be Magnificent

One of my teachers, Tal Ben-Shahar, explains that we focus on our flaws and forget about the ways in which we are magnificent. Don’t take for granted your own success and accomplishments. Give yourself a hug and savor the feeling of completing a job well-done.

5. Be Mindful

The definition of mindfulness is an awareness of an experience as it’s unfolding in the present moment. When savoring, you are fully absorbed in the present moment, focusing on the sensations of the experience without distractions, such as comparing this moment to another. Mindfulness can increase savoring during any type of positive experience. As you bite into a strawberry, for example, notice its texture, its shape, its flavor. The focused awareness will help you savor the taste just a bit longer.

6. Build Memories

Taking a mental photo of an experience can provide you with a tool you can pull out later, perhaps at a time when you could use a boost of positivity. Pause for a moment to focus your awareness on the specific things you want to recall later and how they make you feel, such as the softness of your child’s hand as it grasps yours, the sound of a friend’s laugh, or the smell of fresh flowers.

7. Write it Down

Reflecting on a positive experience in detail can offer you a chance to savor that moment again. Try writing about a positive experience in a journal, noting as many specifics as you can—what was happening, what did you notice, how did you feel. Deliberately remembering the details can evoke the sensation that you savored earlier.

Sources & additional reading:

·       Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience

·       Sonja Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want

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