“Stop and smell the roses,” the old adage goes. And we take it to be good advice. But the fact is we often let life’s joys pass by without much notice.
The cure for that is to learn the art of savoring.
Not only can savoring let you gather more of life’s goodness, it can give you better health, increased optimism, lessened depression, and even the ability to make better decisions.
“Smell the roses,” doesn’t mean take a quick whiff and then get on with the game. It means that you notice its petals’ velvety texture and see the tiny, shimmering drops of dew lingering there. It means that you bury your nose in it and inhale the scent as if you were taking in the last fragrance you would ever inhale. It means allowing the scent to fill your whole being until you are quivering with pleasure. That’s savoring.
To put it less poetically, savoring is defined as “any thoughts or behaviors capable of generating, intensifying, and prolonging enjoyment.”
The editors at Positive Psychology News Daily define savoring this way:
According to Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff (Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.), savoring involves noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life – the positive counterpart to coping. Savoring is more than pleasure – it also involves mindfulness and “conscious attention to the experience of pleasure” (p. 5). You can savor vicariously, enjoying another person’s pleasure.
There are numerous savoring processes that regulate other positive experiences (p. 14): to name a few:
- Marveling regulates awe.
- Thanksgiving regulates gratitude.
- Basking regulates pride.
- Luxuriating regulates physical pleasure
Three Timeframes of Savoring
Each of us tends to favor savoring in a preferred timeframe. Some of us especially enjoy reminiscing about pleasures that we have enjoyed in the past. The future-oriented among us enjoy savoring as anticipating coming events. And many, especially those who delight in practicing mindfulness, savor life’s pleasures in the present, as they unfold.
Increasing Your Pleasure
Because practicing the art of savoring is so broadly beneficial, try to identify your own preferred style and then reinforce it.
For example, if you enjoy savoring your pleasant memories, set aside time now and then to go back to your childhood or young adult life and see what new memories you can discover. Get out old photographs, souvenirs, date books and journals and let them remind you of good times you experienced in the past. Call an old friend or a family member and make a lunch date to walk back together down memory lane.
If you enjoy looking forward to future events, plan them as early as you can so that you have more time to anticipate the coming experience. If you’re planning a trip, you may enjoy making a collage or scrapbook of photos of the things you’re looking forward to seeing, or doing an internet search to find out what side trips might be fun.
You can intensify the enjoyment of present experiences by journaling about them or by taking photos of things you come across that particularly delight you.
Combine All Three
Douglas B. Turner, Master of Applied Positive Psychology, says he loves to reminisce. But he doesn’t stop there. In his post on “Savoring for Your Health,” he gives us this wonderful example of how to combine all three timeframes:
So the next time you gather your friends and family together, let the savoring roll! As the reminiscing (past) picks up steam, take a moment and savor that very moment (present) and notice the positive emotion in the room. Afterwards, you can look forward and start planning for the next savoring party (future).
The Balancing Power of Savoring
If you usually avoid thinking about the past because it holds painful memories, looking back through the lens of savoring can help you discover that it held good times, too. You may want to ask yourself to poke around a little in those stretches of your life that were difficult to see what pleasures are tucked away there as well.
On the other hand, learning to anticipate what might be enjoyable about a future event that’s causing you apprehension or worry can balance out some of your stress.
Decision-Making: The Practical Side of Savoring
Besides making us feel good, savoring brings the added benefit of contributing to good decision making. By increasing our awareness of what went well for us, what we enjoyed and found motivating, and what worked for us in the past, savoring helps us make better decisions.
According to positive psychologist Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build theory, just by remembering the good things from the past, our current mood and perceptions expand, allowing us to more clearly see positive possibilities.
How to Practice the Art of Savoring
The way to add more savoring to your life is simply to become more aware of it. Ask yourself the positive affirmative question, “What am I savoring so many things now?” at random times throughout your day. Keep a “Three Good Things” journal. Tell stories about the things you have savored to others. Trade “savoring moments” with your family or friends over dinner.
Then the next time you hear someone say, “Stop and smell the roses,” you’ll sigh a deep and happy sigh and say, “Oh, I do! I do!”