The Science of Savoring
This post is the fifth in our monthly series, “The Psychology of Happiness,” (leading up to the Global TapRooT® Summit, April 26-28, 2023). In August, we learned how to get off the hedonic treadmill, and one of the ways we can do that is by savoring. Let’s circle back around to that happiness technique and explore it more deeply.
Sometimes people don’t see the difference between being grateful and savoring, but they are distinctly different. When we are grateful, it is typically to a benefactor (a higher power, a friend, or a pet) for something enjoyable that we received from them. Gratitude is a wonderful practice, but the downside is that it’s hard to practice on days when everything is going wrong. It can feel forced and fake, and not really change your mood much.
Savoring doesn’t always involve a benefactor and is the ability to transform something ordinary into extraordinary. And let’s face it, most of the days of our lives are very ordinary. Exciting vacations and experiences are great to pick up our spirits but they just don’t happen that often. Savoring is easy to do every day, even on a bad day. So, let’s learn how to use the science of savoring to feel happier.
What Does It Mean to “Savor” Something?
Savoring is amplifying the good moments in our lives. We can do that by first noticing them, then appreciating them. We can capitalize on it by sharing, and thus reliving, those moments with others. We can savor even when we face adversity, and perhaps that is the most important time to savor, to counterbalance stress and other negative emotions.
Scientists have divided opportunities for savoring into three different categories:
- Anticipatory savoring (for example, planning a vacation)
- Experiential savoring (for example, enjoying the vacation), and
- Reminiscent savoring (for example, remembering and reliving the vacation by talking about it with others)
Savoring is a very mindful activity. It is focusing all of your attention on that moment and suppressing all other thoughts. So, you’re not thinking about your worries because the brain can’t multi-task like that. It has to think of one thing or another. Thinking about your pleasant, savored activity demands that the brain stop worrying and focus on the activity for a little while.
For example, when we were on lockdown in 2020, I started baking. I am not a baker and never enjoyed it, but I had time on my hands. I noticed that every time I would bake something, I would feel very happy and relaxed. If you’ve ever baked before, you know there is no room for error in measuring and choosing ingredients. Baking is a science. So, I would focus my attention on the recipe and the process of baking so I didn’t make a mistake and block every other worry out.
This gave my mind a break from everything going on in the world at the time, and a sense of accomplishment at the end when I had something sweet to enjoy. When I re-live those moments in the kitchen, listening to music, not being rushed, and sharing my baked goods with others, it gives me a good feeling all over again.
Savoring is an Extremely Simple Mindfulness Activity
We all know that being mindful is beneficial to reducing stress. What many don’t realize is that you don’t have to climb to the top of a mountain and sit in the lotus position to be mindful. Simply find one or two daily activities that you already do – such as enjoying a warm beverage or walking your dog, to savor. Take a few minutes to notice everything about that activity with all of your senses, and you will increase your level of happiness the more you do it.
Learn more about the psychology of happiness and how to be happier by joining my keynote session at the 2023 Global TapRooT® Summit.