I have always been a “glass half-full” kind of person, despite my struggle with depression and anxiety. However, I often missed out on the fleeting moment of joy because of anxiety about some potential future disaster or ruminations about how I might have better dealt with situations that had already taken place. When I was introduced to the concept of savouring, I almost dismissed it as being too simplistic to make any sort of difference in my life. Stopping to smell the roses seemed a little clichéd and surely couldn’t make an impact on my daily challenges. Yet, as I read about the related research, I came to the realization that the ability to appreciate the good things in life – big and small – was one of the most effective strategies for improving depression and reducing stress.
Barbara Fredrickson, one of my positive psychology researcher rock stars, defines savouring as “considering good events in such a way that you willfully generate, intensify, and prolong your heartfelt enjoyment of them.” Researcher Fred Bryant describes how savouring is not just about the present moment, but has a past and a future element. Think about an outing with friends: you can benefit from planning where you will go and what you will do; you gain enjoyment in the moment; and later, you can savour the memory of the time you spent together.
Savouring can also transform routine experiences into small moments of delight. Having eaten more than my fair share of meals while mindlessly watching TV or thinking about what I needed to get done that day, I decided to try a few practices that focused on mindfully eating, using all my senses to appreciate something as small as a raisin. Instead of driving to work in autopilot, I purposefully looked at blossoms on the trees and the little dog in the car stopped next to me at a red light as he enjoyed the sights and smells of the world from his open window.
I found that I could insert these moments of savouring into my day even when – especially when – there were significant challenges in my life. I remember when my son was in hospital in the mental health unit and I would visit him in the morning before work. Each day I would stop at the front of the entrance where beautiful pink flowers were blooming. I would close my eyes and breathe in their sweet scent; sometimes I would touch the velvety petals before I made my way inside.
Perhaps the most special part of my adoption of savouring practices was the joy I found in the shared experiences I had with others during my 50 feats and the ability to mutually reminisce that increased the happiness quotient for all of us. Whether it was eating sushi, getting my nose pierced, or flying through the sky on the Niagara Falls zip line, being able to talk about the fun of it all with those great friends and family who were along for the ride brings fresh positivity and a spark of energy to plan a new adventure.
I discovered that the practice of savouring was absolutely beautiful in its simplicity. In addition to the examples I have described, below are a few more ideas for your own savouring practice:
- Use your camera to really notice and preserve the beauty in the world around you
- Create a savouring album or box that contains meaningful pictures or items and regularly look at it and think about the joy of each piece
- Have an adventure with a friend – plan the details, enjoy the moment, reconnect later to remember the fun
- Eat a meal without any distractions – use all of your senses to appreciate each bite
- Go to an art gallery and experience the awe of its contents
And, of course, take a mindful walk – stop and smell the roses.
I’d love for others to add to the list and talk about their own savouring practices
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