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Home » All, Mindfulness, Pathway 1 "Pleasure", Positive Feelings, Savoring / In-the-Moment, _1 Positive Experiences

On Savoring

By on January 29, 2007 – 10:25 am  13 Comments

Miriam Ufberg, MAPP, lives in New York City where she manages a yoga studio, which is part of the first national family of studios. She is a registered yoga instructor with a focus on scoliosis and spinal fusions. Her Positive Psychology focus is positive organizational development, leadership, authenticity, and the role of meaning in life and character strengths for emerging adults. Full bio.

Mimi's articles are here.



In his research on savoring, Fred Bryant calls out Freud and Skinner’s assumptions that people naturally experience pleasure in response to positive events. To some of us it might seem ridiculous to need to say so. We’d wonder, how is it possible to not enjoy the good stuff? I mean we’re not talking making lemonade out of lemons, we’re talking about feeling psyched about a well-deserved promotion.

Well, I must admit, it’s a relief to know that the equation isn’t that balanced; that we aren’t all predisposed to know how to ‘be present’ and savor the good things in life. For some of us, it takes work and the recognition that if we aren’t stopping to savor we are missing out on the actual reality of our lives. In some cases it may take an understanding of what those ‘good things’ are for each of us. Perhaps that’s one of the places where the ‘meaning’ branch of Seligman’s positive subjective experience intersects with the ‘pleasure’ branch, where goal setting and circle of life exercises are helpful for us to know what makes us feel pleasure and what we feel warrants savoring. In other cases, it’s the simple pleasures that some of us have the most trouble appreciating.

Included in Peterson and Seligman’s Classification of Character Strengths and Virtues (aka Manual of the Sanities), is included the strength of “Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence” indicating that being able to recognize, be present and appreciate positive experiences is something that some of us are just simply better at doing.

Savoring can be Learned

As we are always careful to point out, this certainly does not preclude the fact that those of us who don’t naturally know how to savor, can’t learn to. In fact, it is just the opposite. In his book Savoring Fred Bryant suggests ways to learn to savor or to mindfully engage in thoughts or behaviors that heighten the effect of positive events on positive feelings.

Bryant’s work also supports 3 temporal forms of savoring:

  1. Anticipatory
  2. In the Moment
  3. Reminiscent

Thus, we can savor a positive event before it happens by getting excited in preparation for it, we can savor the positive event as it occurs, and we can savor a positive event by remembering it.

What are the Benefits of Savoring?

But besides making us feel good, for the pragmatists out there to whom ‘feeling good’ isn’t enough, you may be wondering, what’s the point of savoring, what does it do for us? Nobel prize winner for his work on hedonic psychology, Daniel Kahneman points out that “humans plan for their future and use their past as a guide to their future…(making) remembered or anticipated and integrated hedonic value a convenient shorthand for decision making online.” Thus our mental representation of remembered and anticipated pleasure are functional in our lives. It helps us make good decisions because it reminds us of what served us well in the past.

Barbara Fredrickson’s Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions puts the final button on this jacket, proving that positive emotions create an upward spiral in our experiences, emotions, relationships, mental capacities, and so on. So by reconnecting with those positive emotions that we felt in the past, we can enhance our current mood and perceptions of current situations thereby creating even more positive emotions and experiences.

Savoring and Karma

Yogic philosophy, which I’ve begun to study more in depth recently, places greatest emphasis on non-attachment, which would suggest that identifying with our past and/or our future only hinders us, as it takes us away from experiencing the present reality. This places greater emphasis on the ‘in the moment’ savoring. When I asked my yogiraj why exactly ‘being present’ was so important he reminded me that things happen to and for us when we live in the moment, we have no need to craft and orchestrate them because by placing our attention on them we are allowing our intuition to take hold. He’d likely call what Kahneman describes our karma, our experiences of past and our future that affect our present.

So, back to where we started, while we all have positive experiences in our lives, many of us may need guidance on how to recognize and appreciate the positive and to activate a savoring quality in our lives. Just because good things happen doesn’t mean we know what to do with them! There is a William Blake quotation that I’ve shared with those people in my life who just can’t seem to find the light switch in the dark room.

“There is a moment in every day that the devil cannot find”

I’d like to add on to that, “Savor it!” A good beginning…..

Look for me on the 29th of each month. Love to hear your comments.
MU

 


 
References

Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007) Savoring: A new model of positive experience.. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Image
Savoring the view courtesy of Alexandra Gavis

13 Comments »

  • Senia Maymin says:

    Love this article, Mimi. It ties in so much: Bryant’s three savorings, Kahneman’s thoughts on shortcuts to decision-making, yogic ideas, Peterson and Seligman on character strengths condusive to savoring, Fredrickson’s research on positive emotions associated with savoring… all this research seems very full and inter-related. That really gets me excited about Positive Psychology – when a lot of research and ideas fit together. Thank you.

  • Hi Mimi,

    Great article Mimi! You really synthesized a lot of great work. I particularly like how you make the case for savoring in the moment. I also like how you make the point that savoring is not necessarily easy. The good news is that you make the case that it sure is worth trying to do.

    You packed a lot into your post – great job! I look forward to the next one.

    Best,

    David

  • Dave Shearon says:

    So cool, Mimi, so cool! I hadn’t found Barb Fredrickson’s page — thanks. And this was so timely for me as I’m still savoring a “writers night” we put on at the Country Music Hall of Fame last night for my peers in the CLE world who are in town for a national meeting. It was an exercise in “appreciation of beauty and excellence!” You confirmed how important such savoring is!

  • Dana Arakawa says:

    Hey Mimi! I am really interested in how you talked about the yogic approach, being mindful etc, and how it may be at odds with anticipated or remembered pleasure. I’m curious to see your future thoughts on the difference between Eastern and Western approaches, as you continue to study yogic philosophy… hope you’re doing well! love, dana

  • Editor S.M. says:

    Master-Reality.ru website has translated this article into Russian.
    Here it is:
    http://www.master-reality.ru/main.php?script=news&action=shownews&id=23
    Title: “The Art of Enjoying”

  • […] On the other hand, there are a ton of great things about restarting. See what Dave Seah highlights about rebooting your day. Restarting is freshness. It’s counteracting what the Made-to-Stick Heath brothers call “The Curse of Knowledge,” knowing so much about your subject that you can’t step away and be objective. If you can trigger yourself to restart your day, then maybe you can cultivate that “beginner’s mind” that Jordan Silberman writes about here and Miriam Ufberg writes about here. […]

  • […] On the other hand, if you are the owner of a radio station, and you decide to run a “positive news only” radio station, then you are on solid moral ground. It’s when the government steps in to voice its position and forcibly requires new rules that change the content that it’s a violation of principle – the news staff was forced into this new arrangement.  On this site, we cover positive stories (such as great schools, praise and performance, and savoring) as well as non-positive stories (such as the Virginia shooting, cancer, and the Holocaust)  I happen to be a big fan of the Good News Network and of HappyNews – those sites are positive by editorial choice, which is entirely different from this news story about the new Russian mandate. […]

  • […] This game is about being in-the-moment. Being in-the-moment produces positive emotions. Positive emotions during savoring “create an upward spiral in our experiences, emotions, relationships, mental capacities, etc.,” according to Mirium Ufberg in this article. […]

  • […] I find that I often ask questions about the upcoming, but because we know that some people prefer to reminisce about the past and some like to plan for the future (see Mimi’s article on savoring and Derrick’s article on time-modalities), I want to be asking more questions about the past as well: […]

  • Dave Hood says:

    Most of us live stressful lives. We don’t have enough time to do all the things we want to do. Much of our stress is due to multitasking (too many tasks) and instant communication (email, blackberries, cellphones). Consequently, many people are unable or have forgotten how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. One of the ways to start to enjoy the simple pleasures in life is to savor the moment or experience.

    When I went away to a friend’s cottage this summer, I sat by the lake one night after dark and listened to the sound of the trees rustling, watched the stars in the sky and the beauty of the peaceful lake, and the call of the loons in the distance. Anyways, I savored the moment—the experience. And I felt happy. And I can still remember this positive experience.

    Your post suggests that we can increase our happiness in the present by savoring a positive experience through anticipation, savoring the moment, or reminiscing.There is much truth to what you have written.

    Very interesting article.

  • Dave Hood says:

    Most of us live stressful lives. We don’t have enough time to do all the things we want to do. Much of our stress is due to multitasking (too many tasks) and instant communication (email, blackberries, cellphones). Consequently, many people are unable or have forgotten how to enjoy life’s simple pleasures. One of the ways to start to enjoy the simple pleasures in life is to savor the moment or experience.

    When I went away to a friend’s cottage this summer, I sat by the lake one night after dark and listened to the sound of the trees rustling, watched the stars in the sky, the beauty of the peaceful lake, and the call of the loons. Anyways, I savored the moment—the experience. And I felt happy. And I can still remember this positive experience.

    Positive psychology suggests that you can increase your happiness in the present by savoring a positive experience through anticipation, savoring the moment, or reminiscing.There is much truth to this.

  • Louella says:

    Hi Mimi!

    I admire the way this was written – it’s cohesive and easy to read. I have only learned about savoring a few months ago and only starting to do research on it now for a happiness blog but since I started applying some positive psychology habits in raising my son in June this year, the art of savoring – specifically anticipation – came naturally to me, albeit slowly, as if it’s the most sensible thing to do after having mindfully observing positive psychology skills with my son.

    Anticipation, if one has to learn it, can be hard but I noticed that when there is a friction starting to build up between me and my son about what I need him to do vs. what he wants to do, my mind suddenly gives me sort of a second of meditative thought, like picturing how worse it could turn out to be one minute later if I give in to the direction of anger and frustration. It is something I see I would regret. And for a split second, while my son continues with his littany, I find that meditative thought sort of a blue light (red makes us panic, I think blue should represent keeping us calm) to remind me for a quick moment that I can take this experience to the opposite direction where my son and I could resolve the issue at hand. As an effect, I go back to being in control of my feelings, realizing that this argument is simply a conflict and not about me or my competency as a mother or my son’s reputation or anything about our personalities – it is simply a thing that we could bring where we want it to go.

    The best part is – and this might sound crazy – I could actually savor “in the moment” how my son is now – six years old, so alpha male in his ways, he adores me most of the time, uses his reasoning skills to justify his thoughts, speaks freely, full of ideas, likes to make people laugh – and say to myself “Someday, this boy will be a grown up man before I know it and I am blessed to have this very moment with him”. So from there, I could take the situation calmly, and listen to what he has to say, understand what he feels and start involving him in how we could resolve the problem. And kids could sense when grown ups are calm so my son starts to calm down too and that enables us to talk, hug, and smile again.

    So I guess your position about a person’s strenghts (my love for my son), savoring (anticipation and in the moment), and yogic (meditation) could really work on our daily lives to be happy.

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