Savoring. What does that word bring to mind for you? For me, I imagine slowing down, lingering over what I’m doing or noticing, discerning details that have previously escaped me, and enjoying the whole experience. Let’s dive deep into what “savoring” means, why it is important, and what you can do start savoring life.
What is savoring?
Psychologists describe it as the capacity to attend to, appreciate, and enhance the positive experiences in our life. They argue that it is an active process, with the person noticing and searching for ‘delights in the moment’ within their environment. I find the phrase ‘delights in the moment’ exquisite. To me, it captures the joy and the surprise that is found with savoring. Noticing little details like texture, smell, or the determined behavior of birds or insects.
So savoring is an active way of cultivating positive emotions, and it is a method that is accessible to us all. It involves appreciating the good things in life. The beautiful things, the fun things, the touching things, the rare things, the sights, the sounds, the smells, the emotions, the list could go on and on.
Why savor? What are the benefits of savoring life?
The biggest benefit that results from savoring is that it boosts our positive emotions, increasing their intensity and frequency. This is known as the “upward spiral of positive emotion” and was proposed by psychologists Fredrickson and Joiner. Their research shows that positive emotions enable us to become more creative and resourceful as we experience more positive emotions. Ultimately, this leads to an upward spiral that creates even more positive emotions. The creation of positive emotions can also reduce the effects of stress, including lowering the heart rate. So taking time to savor when going through a stressful experience will be very beneficial!
How to savor
Positive psychologist Sonia Lyubormirsky argues that savoring be carried out in three different and complementary timeframes. It can be experienced as moments in the present time. It can also be related to past pleasures and anticipated future pleasures. These last two timeframes illustrate that savoring life involves a reflective element. Let’s take them one at in time.
Savoring in the present moment:
Savor the present involves noticing and then appreciating something that gives you pleasure. Let’s use the example of a raindrop on a leaf. By first noticing the raindrop and then letting your attention linger on it, you may begin to notice details such as the height of the raindrop, and the tension across the raindrop’s skin (that isn’t probably the correct terminology, but it paints a picture). You may also start to ask yourself questions. If the raindrop is near the tip of the leaf, how long will it be before it slides off the leaf? Or what is keeping it there in this perilous position? The process of appreciating what you are looking at and simultaneously appreciating the positive feelings you are experiencing at the moment, actually intensifies the pleasure gained leading to a greater feeling of joy and serenity.
Savoring the past:
A good task for savoring the past is to look through old photos. Take time to recall the positive things you were doing, to remember friends you may not have thought of in years, to relive important positive past events, and to recapture the positive emotions. Remember you are searching for ‘delights,’ those little nuggets that you thought you had forgotten.
Savoring the future:
Savoring the future is all about anticipation and appreciation. It involves looking forward to things and appreciating not just the up-and-coming event, but also appreciating the planning and waiting stage. An example would be choosing where to go on holiday. Researching where you would like to go and what you would like to do there are both acts that can be savored. I sometimes hear people say that planning for a holiday can be stressful. By savoring the process, we negate any stress through positive emotions such as anticipated joy and pleasure.
Savoring and meditation
Savoring and meditation are both acts that involve the conscious directing of attention but in different ways. There is a difference in the role that feelings play in meditation and savoring. Bryant and Veroff suggest that while meditation involves directing attention in a non-analytical way, savoring involves consciously directing attention to ‘the arrangement of ideas that elicit feelings’. This can be seen in the conscious awareness of a present moment experience, such as the warmth of sunlight on your cheek. Then noticing and appreciating what you notice about that feeling, what does it physically feel like? What emotional responses does it evoke? The appreciative component of savoring helps to evoke positive emotions, then by lingering over the savoring act these positive emotions are embedded and strengthened.
A skill for life
One thing I have noticed about savoring is that when I started to practice it, it was a conscious and deliberate act. Now, however, I find that while it is still conscious, it is not so much deliberate as it is more a way of life and it happens automatically. Try it out for yourself and notice how you feel after savoring even the simplest things. You may find that they are not simple, and add richness to your life. Please start savoring life and enjoy!