Sometimes we get so caught up in our daily routines we simply forget to take a breath in order to appreciate the good things around us. Savoring isn’t just about enjoying a mouthful of food or wine it can also be extended to an appreciation of the things that surround us. As I’m writing this it’s a miserable wet day in early March. The sky is uniformly gray and it hasn’t stopped drizzling all day. Days like this don’t exactly fill me with joy but it doesn’t mean I should allow my mood to be dictated by it.
Maybe you already know that our brains are wired in such a way that we notice what’s wrong before we see what isn’t. It’s a survival instinct and it has served us very well up to a point. After all, if we don’t first take heed of potential problems or dangers, I doubt there would be many of us around to enjoy the positives. But these days we’re pretty secure behind our locked doors and cars bristling with safety equipment. Even so, we still pay more attention to the one criticism that came our way and forget all the times we were praised or things went smoothly.
Well the point of all this is that we can, with a small amount of time and effort, learn to accentuate the positives. Savoring involves our senses and this is real deep brain stuff. Every time we hear a great piece of music, or smell freshly baked bread, or see a fantastic sunset we are overcoming our negativity bias and replacing it with something positive. You may find that you have a particular sensory bias. Maybe you’d always prefer the sight of art over the sound of music, that sort of thing. And things change over time too. As a young person you perhaps liked sweet things to eat and as an adult you go more for savory dishes. Even social activities change. Grandparents often get more pleasure from their grandchildren than they did from their own kids and it’s probably due to the lack of additional pressures that allows this.
We can think of our anxieties and low moods as a kind of reversal of savoring. So, today your task is to slow down, stretch out the positive experiences and enjoy them. If you’re about to eat a nice meal pull back from simply eating what is on the plate and you slow your movements down. Look at your meal, smell it and slowly lift the fork, or the burger, or the cake, to your mouth and pay attention to its taste, its temperature and its texture. That’s savoring!
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Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.