One Saturday morning, not too long ago, I sat on the sofa in my comfiest PJs. As the sun shined through our window, my family and I enjoying sitting together watching something funny on the TV. It was blissful. I was relaxed and feeling an abundance of love for those near me. “This is the absolute life,” I thought, allowing myself to luxuriate in the moment for as long as possible.
My actions and thought processes at that moment were actually doing me more good than I realised. You see, it turns out I was using a recognised positive psychology technique known as savouring. And through savouring, I was next-level boosting how happy I could feel.
What is savouring?
Savouring is the process of noticing, appreciating and intensifying our positive experiences. It’s about enhancing the beneficial impact good things have on us and helping happy feelings stick around for longer.
Sadly, we often allow good moments to pass without much acknowledgement or celebration. Savouring strategies increase our focus (and recognition) of these moments enabling us to capture all the good on offer.
“Knowing how to cope with negative events & savour positive ones are two sides of the coin of life experiences. Coping skills help diminish the effects of painful moments, while savouring helps amplify the beauty of joyful ones. Both are essential to living a happy life.”Jan Stanley
Aside from helping you feel happier, using savouring strategies has been shown to make you more resilient and resourceful, improve your sleep, strengthen your immune system and increase your creativity.
Plus, take it from me, it just feels really good!
What do you savour?
Savouring is carried out across 3 points in time. The past, the present and the future. To become good at savouring it’s important to practice all 3.
Savour the past: Pick a strong and happy memory from your past. If you have a relevant picture, video or souvenir hold it in front of you (this is helpful although not essential). Spend some time re-living the event. Call on all your senses to help you with this. Find the positive feelings and hold on to them.
Good to know: A 2006 study by Lyubomirsky et al. concluded that participants who spent 8 minutes a day (for 3 days) recalling a positive memory experienced sustained increases in their positive emotions for at least 4 weeks.
Savour the present: Employing savouring strategies in the present moment is very powerful. You’re acknowledging your positive feelings right in the moment they’re occurring, taking your experience up a level.
Next time you realise you’re feeling good, take a few moments to focus on it. Why are you feeling good in this moment? Completely indulge in the feelings, build up as much of a sensory picture as possible.
For example, if you’re feeling good when you’re with your friends, rather than only think ‘oh this is nice’ you might also recognise your bond with them, revel in your laughter together, feel gratitude for them being there and noticing how at peace and accepted you feel.
Savour the future: Oh yes! You can even savour things that haven’t happened yet. Just the thought of something positive happening to you can help increase how happy you feel.
If you have something good planned, such as a holiday, spend some time thinking about it. Where will you go? What will you do? What are you looking forward to the most? This is also a great idea to help you through lockdown – think about everything you’re excited to do or who you’re excited to see post lockdown. Now’s the time to make some positive plans.
Helpful savouring strategies to adopt
Savour like a pro with these helpful tips…
Smile, laugh, speak about how happy you feel. Outwardly expressing your good feelings is hard evidence for your mind that something good has happened. In fact, studies found people who expressed rather than suppressed their feelings enjoyed themselves more.
Just like a problem shared is a problem halved, good news shared is good feelings doubled. So, next time something good happens be sure to tell someone, their encouraging reactions will boost your positive feelings surrounding the event.
Why not return the favour? Next time someone shares their good news with you, make sure to fully listen and celebrate with them, knowing you’re doing a good thing in helping them feel even happier.
Take a mental picture. Make yourself consciously aware of what you’ll want to remember later. If possible (and ensuring not to deter yourself from the moment) take an actual picture, or video, or pick up a memento.
Top tip: Add these special feel-good pictures to your vision board or strategically place them around your house where you’ll see them often. Noticing them will encourage positive feelings.
Savouring requires focus. Mindfulness – the process of bringing yourself back into the present moment – can help you here.
Recognise it’s temporary
Whilst I appreciate this may sound like putting a dampener on things, it’s actually a positive technique. We’re encouraging ourselves to make the most of an experience, being grateful for every minute we get to live it.
Don’t put pressure on it
What makes a happy moment? Any moment in which you’re feeling happy. There need be no strict definition of this. If you’re not feeling a moment, you’re not feeling it. That’s fine. Wait for the next moment when you do.
Things to avoid when savouring
There are a few things to avoid when employing savouring strategies. Think of them as Kryptonite for happy moments.
Firstly, you need to stop your mind from moving on. Thinking about what’s next is a good example. I also refer to it as ‘tomorrow is Monday’ syndrome, (where you’re not acknowledging the good stuff on a Sunday because you keep thinking, ‘tomorrow is Monday’). If you find your mind skipping ahead bring yourself back into the moment.
Additionally, brains have a natural tendency to focus on negative things. If 95% of an event went well, but 5% didn’t, well, as humans, we’re wired to ruminate on the 5%. Gain a more positive perspective. Acknowledge how brilliant it was that the majority of your experience was positive, ensuring you don’t lose sight of the good.
Finally, thinking you somehow don’t deserve the good moment will diminish the impact savouring can have. Please do not feel guilty about good things happening to you. You, as much as any other person, deserves happiness.
Time to savour the moment…
By noticing (and relishing) in a happy moment, by actively indulging in positive past experiences, and by building excitement & joy for what is yet to come, you’ll gift yourself the best opportunity to feel happier for longer.
- What is savouring & why is it the key to happiness? Tchiki Davis, Ph.D. for Psychology Today
- The Science of Savouring. Jan Stanley for Live Happy
- 10 Steps to Savouring the Good Things in Life. Stacey Kennelly for Greater Good Magazine
- What is Savouring? THE POSITIVE PSYCHLOPEDIA
- The Costs and Benefits of Writing, Talking, and Thinking About Life’s Triumphs and Defeats. Lyubomirsky et al. 2006
Have you heard of savouring before? Have you tried it yet? How have you found it? Do you think savouring is something you will try to do? Whatever you’d like to say – or ask – get in touch via the comment box below, I’m happy to help and I always love to hear from you!