• Amy Capern, Student Therapist

Savouring What Is Good: Past, Present & Future

Our lives seem to be busier than ever. An ever-tilting focus on productivity and multitasking seem often to result in a feeling that our lives are only half-lived. Down time is rarely filled with boredom and daydreaming anymore. We have become obsessed with digital distractions and personal improvement. We are yearning, seeking, and ever striving for “more”. Many clients I work with they are caught in this grind, and unable to stop and luxuriate in their experiences or bask in their accomplishments. They rarely find time to be present in the moment, noticing the awe of architecture or nature around them, to reflect and give thanks for who and what has brought them to this current place in their lives. Nor do they find time to dream about the goodness of what could be in their future. The need to do more, to have more and be better can drive them forward with anxiety, fear and obligation, stopping them from finding joy, connection and positive emotions along the way. What if we were to take a moment and savour the good? “Savouring” involves noticing positives and using cognitive and behavioural strategies to enhance and expand the positive experience. Bryant and Veroff (2007) have proposed that savouring has three components: (1) savouring through anticipation, a broad future-oriented approach that brings about positive emotions as we contemplate what is to come; (2) savouring through reminiscing, a past-oriented approach where we look back on our past and appreciate positive emotions evoked by memories; (3) savouring the moment, a present-oriented approach that identifies what is good right now and extends and expands the time focused on it, to enhance positive emotions (Bryant, 2003). Savouring is different from pleasure and happiness, as it is about attentional focus and appreciation to positive feelings and moments, whereas the sensation of pleasure can still occur even when we are not mindful of, consciously attending to, or savouring pleasure (Bryant & Veroff, 2007). We need to actively engage in savouring or these positive moments can just slip away unnoticed and not remembered. There are different types of savouring but here are some of the most common:

  • Luxuriating (positive emotion involved: pleasure). When we think of savouring, we often think of luxuriating: easing into a hot bath and feeling our muscles relax, reading a book on a lounge chair in the sunshine, taking that first lick of an ice cream cone on a hot day.

  • Marvelling (awe). Some experiences inspire savouring by their very nature. A mountain range that goes on for miles, a beautiful sunset, the quiet sacredness of an ancient cathedral, art, architecture, dance and athletic feats of speed and strength.

  • Basking (pride). When we enjoy the warm glow of praise, accomplishment and achievement, we are basking. We only reach a particular goal once, but we can extend the gratifying feeling by reminiscing and interpersonal sharing of our successes.

  • Thanksgiving (gratitude). A state of thanksgiving, were we feel grateful internally and express it outwardly. It can happen when simply reflecting on all the good in our life from clean drinking water, to a safe place to sleep, to those who have been there for us in a time of need or put forward greater effort than we anticipated. We take time to recognize, notice and give thanks.

Savouring is positively associated with present happiness, percentage of happiness in a day, higher levels of self esteem, optimism and extraversion (Bryant, 2003). But, positive events alone are not enough to bring about happiness, people need to be able to attend to and appreciate the positive feelings that emerge from positive events (Bryant & Veroff, 2007).

How to increase savouring: We can increase savouring through cognitive and behavioural strategies and/or with interpersonal sharing. These different ways of savouring have different effects on positive outcomes. Savouring the present moment and reminiscing is associated with increased positive emotions, while interpersonal sharing of positive events in person or on the phone/video chat are associated the higher levels of life satisfaction (Quoidbach, Berry,Hansenne & Mikolajczak, 2010). These positive effects of interpersonal sharing did not occur if sharing was through social media (such as Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat posting), the benefit is in the interpersonal sharing not just in the sharing of what is good. Here are some strategies you may want to try……. Present: Savouring the Moment Savoring the moment was found to be positively associated with satisfaction with life, subjective happiness, and positive affect (Hurley & Kwon). We can connect with positive emotions behaviourally by expressing them through smiling and laughing, and by telling others how much we are enjoying the positive event. By recognizing and reminding ourselves that positive moments are transient we can cognitively focus on enjoying the moment while it lasts (Hurley & Kwon, 2013). To enhance savouring the moment, Hurley & Kwon (2013) encourage us to take time to enjoy something that we would usually hurry through. For example the Raisin Meditation, below is an example of how to slow down and savour food, if raisons aren’t your thing then try a grape or some other substitute for this exercise. In the words of mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn, “When we taste with attention, even the simplest foods provide a universe of sensory experience.” Mindful Eating-The Raisin Meditation: How to do it (5 minutes)

  1. Holding: First, take a raisin and hold it in the palm of your hand or between your finger and thumb.

  2. Seeing: Take time to really focus on it; gaze at the raisin with care and full attention—imagine that you’ve just dropped in from Mars and have never seen an object like this before in your life. Let your eyes explore every part of it, examining the highlights where the light shines, the darker hollows, the folds and ridges, and any asymmetries or unique features.

  3. Touching: Turn the raisin over between your fingers, exploring its texture. Maybe do this with your eyes closed if that enhances your sense of touch.

  4. Smelling: Hold the raisin beneath your nose. With each inhalation, take in any smell, aroma, or fragrance that may arise. As you do this, notice anything interesting that may be happening in your mouth or stomach.

  5. Placing: Now slowly bring the raisin up to your lips, noticing how your hand and arm know exactly how and where to position it. Gently place the raisin in your mouth; without chewing, noticing how it gets into your mouth in the first place. Spend a few moments focusing on the sensations of having it in your mouth, exploring it with your tongue.

  6. Tasting: When you are ready, prepare to chew the raisin, noticing how and where it needs to be for chewing. Then, very consciously, take one or two bites into it and notice what happens in the aftermath, experiencing any waves of taste that emanate from it as you continue chewing. Without swallowing yet, notice the bare sensations of taste and texture in your mouth and how these may change over time, moment by moment. Also pay attention to any changes in the object itself.

  7. Swallowing: When you feel ready to swallow the raisin, see if you can first detect the intention to swallow as it comes up, so that even this is experienced consciously before you actually swallow the raisin.

  8. Following: Finally, see if you can feel what is left of the raisin moving down into your stomach, and sense how your body as a whole is feeling after you have completed this exercise. (Source: The Greater Good Science Center: Uvm, Scholarworks, Sabrina Bedell, Mentor Erica Lovett, Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal, and Jon Kabat-zinn. "Eating One Raisin: A First Taste of Mindfulness.")

Past: Savouring Through Reminiscing You can also reminisce about past positive experiences by seeking to remember with all of your five senses, allowing yourself to laugh and s