The technical definition
Savoring is the act of mindfully attending to the experience of pleasure. Savoring is actively trying to prolong and/or intensify a pleasurable event, by ruminating over it in anticipation of, during, or in reminiscence of all of the most enjoyable details. It is also possible to vicariously savor by enjoying someone else’s pleasure.
Huh? What does that mean?
Savoring is the idea that we should “stop and smell the roses.” It’s the noticing and appreciation of the positive things in our lives, and then the decision to conscientiously enjoy them for as long as possible.
In our busy day-to-day lifestyles, it’s easy to rush from one event to the next, never really taking a moment to truly enjoy what we’re doing. This is unfortunate as savoring has many benefits:
- Improvements in our overall health and well-being. When we attend to positive feelings and emotions, our bodies are flooded with “feel-good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that reduce stress and calm our nervous systems. Prolonged stress underlies many major health conditions we experience in our society today.
- Assists us in making positive life choices. When we have good working memory of what was pleasurable to us or worked out well in the past, these savored memories help to inform us when making decisions or setting goals for the future.
- Sends us on an upward spiral of happiness. Savoring positive emotions propels us on a trajectory of experiencing more positive emotions, just as ruminating on the negative would lead us down the path of thinking more negatively.
- Experience lives of gratitude and appreciation. Those who learn to savor special moments in life often report having a greater appreciation for the things and people they have in their lives.
- Develop a sense of self-efficacy. Savoring the moments when we’ve accomplished something or have performed well, can aid us in building our confidence.
Lead researchers on the topic of savoring, Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff, describe several ways to savor in their book, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience. They explain that different types of savoring regulate other important positive experiences:
- Marveling regulates awe.
- Thanksgiving regulates gratitude.
- Basking regulates pride.
- Luxuriating regulates physical pleasure
How can I use this in my life?
- Share your positive feelings. Research in this area has indicated that people who share their feelings with friends have higher levels over overall happiness than those who do not share.
- Take mental photographs. Be intentional about cognitively “capturing” moments that are special to you that you would like to be able to enjoy again.
- Sharpen your sensory perceptions. Block out distractions so you can concentrate on the savoring (like turning off the TV or computer while you’re eating, for example).
- Be mindful. It takes practice to train our minds to just be present. In order to fully experience the benefits of savoring, we must try to do what we can to quiet the chatter in our minds.
- Practice gratitude. Make the decision to acknowledge what you are thankful for daily.
- Stunt negative thought patterns. Become aware of when you’re headed down a negative thinking path and make the exerted effort to replace that thinking with positive thoughts and experiences.
A practical example of how to savor a piece of chocolate cake:
1) Enjoy the anticipatory excitement before this coveted piece of chocolate cake arrives.
2) Once the cake arrives, take time to smell it and take in its aroma and temperature.the anticipatory excitement before this coveted piece of chocolate cake arrives.
3) Cultivate a sense of thankfulness that you are able to have this piece of cake.
4) While eating the cake, taking small, slow, mindful bites, letting the cake roll over your palate, noticing the complexity of its tastes and textures.
5) After you’ve finished the cake, notice how you feel having eaten it. Challenge yourself to recall the taste and texture sensations you just experienced. Allow yourself to enjoy the cake-eating experience all over again in your mind.
Bryant, F. B., & Veroff, J. (2007).Savoring: a new model of positive experience. Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.