I am reminded of some reading that I delved into during the pandemic, on positive psychology, which brought up these terms- Savouring, Languishing and Flourishing. Fascinated with their relevance to everyday living and their impact on my well-being , I decided to explore each of these.
In a series of three articles I would like to share my thoughts, explorations and journey into these concepts.
Here’s the first one – On Savouring
Over the last decade, most of my New Year Eve nights have been spent on the beachfront, watching the sun slowly descend in all its splendour.
It’s a moment of quiet gratitude for the year that has been, the lessons learnt, the innumerable everyday occasions of joy; and yes, a ratification of my ceaseless admiration and love for nature. The feeling I experience is an overwhelming sense of pleasure, a feeling of unexplained joy and a light warm flush filling every pore of my body.
What is Savouring?
Savouring perhaps best describes that feeling I experienced. This process of ‘attending to the experience’ of enjoyment in one’s life was aptly described by Fred Bryant, who coined the term.
Staying in the moment and being mindful and aware of how I feel; my thoughts around the experience and my body sensations; brings about a profound appreciation of positive emotions.
Remember your grandma’s special dish for you? Your memories flood back with images of that earthen pot simmering on the stove, the aroma wafting across the room and that image of that little you, hopping around begging for a bite.
Recreating that happy image filled with flavours and smells was easy -wasn’t it? Extending the similar act of savouring to the other moments in our lives – past , present or future; adds to a deep sense of positivity, a feeling of well-being and unbridled happiness.
When you notice yourself feeling good, mentally pause and pay attention to how these positive emotions feel in your body. Sit back and reflect on how good these emotions feel and how much you appreciate feeling this way.
In the everyday humdrum of life, most of us forget to pause and just enjoy the moment. We always plan to do it later- on a holiday, over the weekend or when you retire!!
What does Savouring Entail?
Savouring is the ability to connect to the present moment, the capacity to be aware and engaged fully; a sense of mindfulness and gratitude for what you have experienced.
One can savour the past through reminiscing. Remembering the childhood games that you played, vacations spent with family or friends or even how you felt when you were called up to receive an award at any stage in your life.
While you can do this by yourself, the potential benefits increase when you share this with others. Evenings spent looking at old pictures and albums with friends or cousins, brings back nostalgic memories amplifying that feeling of positivity.
Savouring the present is living in the moment. To be in the here and now and with adult awareness; enjoying the event and experiencing the varied facets, be it the sights, sounds or touch.
In essence it means using your sensory modalities to take in the experience.
One can savour even the anticipation the future event may bring. How often have you sensed a mood uplift when you plan a vacation? The details of your packing, the fun you intend to have and the memories which you would create?
How can you practice Savouring?
Here are some interesting exercises to try so that you get comfortable with the process of savouring. Try them out, feel the experience and then you can make this an everyday activity.
- Maintaining a gratitude journal or simply recounting 3 things every day that you are grateful for. On your morning walk, try recollecting events of the previous day that you are grateful for- a signal free crossing, a smile from a little child or perhaps an easy day at work.
- Seek the comfort and company of others in sharing your personal positive experiences and listening to shared experiences of the past.
- Building memories- document special events, take pictures, videos, create a collage and relive that mental picture, savouring it to the fullest.
- Focussing attention on specific features of an experience through sensory perceptual sharpening. Have you listened to the sound of falling rain or the sound of waves hitting against the shore- its rhythm, the low and high sounds?
- Slowing down to be in the moment and being acutely aware of being immersed and engaged in the experience. Take a few deep breaths to slow your mind and then connect with what you see. Look at a flower, observe its colour, the deeper tones panning into the lighter tones, its velvety texture and the fine thin veins running through it.
- Physical actions of manifesting positive emotions like laughing, smiling or clapping can amplify the positive feelings. Laughter clubs and groups have been around for ages and the positive effects of these are well documented.
- Random acts of kindness towards others increases oxytocin-the love hormone and makes one feel calmer, less depressed, and an increased feeling of self-worth. Pause a minute and experience the warmth of happiness after you have helped an old man cross the road or a less savvy aunt across your house book a cab for her ride.
How does Savouring help?
How does all of this help me improve my well-being, you may wonder! Research studies have documented that an increased ability to savour positive moments predicts higher levels of life satisfaction, an increase in self-esteem, reduced levels of depression and anxiety and helps to bring about work life balance.
So whether you are luxuriating and relaxing or marvelling in awe; basking in the afterglow of warm praise lavished on you or simply acknowledging with gratitude how kind life has been to you; the simple act of staying in the moment is important.
Being mindful of the resources available to you and allowing yourself to live that moment, brings a deeply impactful positive experience that lingers on and nourishes your soul.
We are all conscious of how coping comes naturally to us as a response to negative emotions. In fact, it is almost a default response in our lives.
It’s time to make savouring too, a natural response, an everyday practice for your mental well-being.
Asha Raghavan is on the Counsellors & Therapists panel at InfinumGrowth and available for online consultations.
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