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Savoring is a potent way of extending positive emotions and is an evidence-based method of improving life satisfaction and well-being. Savoring is like lingering a little longer in a moment that brings you joy, gratitude, hope, interest, contentment, pride, and love. Why? Positive emotions are a pillar of well-being and generating more of them makes you feel happier. As researcher Barbara Fredrickson states in a 2001 paper, “positive emotions are vehicles for individual growth and social connection.” Lingering on fleeting moments pay dividends.

Taking time to savor broadens how you view yourself and the world. Interestingly enough, savoring can have internal or external circumstances. I’ll tell you about different ways you can add savoring into your day that is as simple as a quick shift in your focus.

Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff wrote a book Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience if you want to go deeper.

Savoring is about being present in the internal or external environment to focus on positive emotions. Savoring comes from your interpretation of the environment and what is unfolding. It also does not need to be a time commitment. It can be as simple as spending an extra couple of seconds enjoying the feeling of a warm hug or a cup of coffee. Details, sensations, and actively choosing an optimistic lens for viewing the world will enhance savoring.

Quick mention on optimism and positivity: looking for positive things happening in your life is not the same as ignoring all the hardships and challenges. It’s in the meaning making process where optimism can be your greatest tool. As Barbara Fredrickson notes in her book, Positivity, “But keep in mind that eliminating negativity is not your goal. Even when positivity doesn’t eliminate negativity it still unleashes positive dynamics.”

There are a landslide of studies showing how savoring boosts overall feelings of well-being, relationships, decreases anxiety and depression, and can add extra support in stressful situations.

“Beyond merely accepting goodness, you can learn to relish it, deeply appreciating each facet of its pleasantness. If savoring is new to you, learning to do it well can multiply your positivity threefold as you extract more heartfelt goodness.”

Barbara Fredrickson

Three ways to savor:

  • Savor the Past: Reminiscence
    • Thinking about things from the past that brought on positive emotions and thinking about memories is a way to savor. You can do this with other people, looking at pictures in your phone, or even just thinking about it.
  • Savor the Present: Savoring the moment
    • You can bring extra attention to how much you like the people you’re with, spending time with a pet, the beauty around you, appreciating kindness from a stranger, and food. Savoring experiences can lead to feelings of awe.
  • Savor the Future: Anticipation
    • Looking forward to something that you’re excited about brings positive emotions. Visualize and dream about your future in vivid detail.

You may have noticed that these examples tend to fall in three categories; savoring experiences, savoring something that happened leading to a positive emotion, and savoring a response to an event.

In a book chapter titled, Nurturing the Capacity to Savor by leading researchers Smith, Harrison, Kurtz, and Bryant, they identified 16 empirically-based interventions to enhance savoring. Here are a few that I found readily applicable.

More Actionable Ways to Savor:

  • Three good things (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). Write down or talk about 3 good things that happened during the day. In addition think about why those things felt good and notice any themes. This is similar to a gratitude practice but more broad.
  • Kindness: Thinking about personal acts of kindness you did for someone or acts of kindness you received
  • Dedicating time to reminisce on past positive memories and experiences
  • Recognizing personal achievements as well as how others were part of your team to help you do so. This one could be particularly helpful for those who struggle celebrate success
  • Visualizing positive events likely to happen in the future
  • Taking mindful moments to see what you can appreciate in and around you
  • Connect and share with others

Something to note is to keep a light touch on savoring. Overanalyzing can reduce the positive affect.

A thought: Savor Discomfort

Up until this point, everything I’ve written about is inspiring to me and also well-documented in the literature. An additional point to savoring I want to add is one I haven’t seen yet when you start reading about savoring. And that is savoring difficult moments. I’ve written about this before in regard to being in the middle of a bike racing and just wanting it to be over. How many times have we worked hard for the opportuntity to try a challenge (like a race or maybe even a job promotion) but when it gets hard, we start wishing it were over? Being in the moment is hard sometimes, especially when it hurts, but trying to find gratitude in that moment can help. You can savor other elements, even if it’s uncomfortable and you want to be done.  Examples: “I signed up for this. I trained for this. I’m lucky to be here.  This is where I get to know myself best.  The views are beautiful.  Look at all these people who are pushing themselves too.” or more succinctly “this is what you came for.”

I wrote specifically about the mantra “this is what you came for” and how there is a texture of acceptance for what is when you try to savor instead of wish it away.

Here’s an excerpt from my article that was more broadly about how we place our happiness in the future and default to “I’ll be happy when…”

  • Remind yourself “this is what I came for.”  When you do an interval workout and you are suffering and just want it to be over, that discomfort is actually what you came for because it’s how you improve.  If you are out doing a sport or at the gym, this is what you came for. If you’re a parent, raising children is what you came for.  It doesn’t necessarily make it easy, but a simple mindset shift maybe makes you realize that it isn’t going to be perfect or feel good all the time.  It shifts you from avoiding discomfort and into a mindset of accepting the discomfort as normal, but also impermanent. Another note is that we often look back fondly, even on hard times. I hear people say some of their favorite times in their lives were when their kids were little or some of when they were in the thick of the hardest (voluntary) challenges they’ve done. We look back fondly at these moments, but sometimes when we are in them, we want to speed up time because we wish things were easier. Savoring the challenges and knowing that later this will also be a moment or moments that you will fondly reminisce is powerful. How will the “future you” feel if you savored the moment?

Bottom Line

As Barbara Fredrickson beautifully said in Positivity (p.184), “Beyond merely accepting goodness, you can learn to relish it, deeply appreciating each facet of its pleasantness. If savoring is new to you, learning to do it well can multiply your positivity threefold as you extract more heartfelt goodness.”

Savoring can happen by thinking about the past, present, or future in experiential and cognitive ways. Adopting a few different methods to actively practice savoring can increase positive emotions, life satisfaction, and well-being. You can even learn to savor in your own discomfort. Savoring isn’t about ignoring negative or stressful feelings, but in acceptance and meaning-making when they come up.


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