I love to reminisce. When I get together with friends or family we tell the same stories again and again. Like the time we stared death in the face in Interlaken, Switzerland. We had decided to ride little mopeds (remember those?) on the narrow roads in the surrounding mountains. Huge trucks came within inches of us as we hugged the shoulder of the road. Or the time my daughter asked if she could brush my hair. She excitedly climbed up on the bed behind me. After a long silent pause, she finally said, with concern in her voice, “Daddy, where is it?” Or the time a youngster gave a little sermon in church and ended it by yelling “Hasta la vista, baby!” into the microphone. We laugh just as hard on the 30th telling as we did on the 1st telling.My wife and I also enjoy talking endlessly about the future. We enjoy creating scenario after scenario of the future and then thinking about what we would need to do to make the scenario a reality. We’ve talked about living near Lake Tahoe. We’ve talked about moving into the city (Washington, DC). We’ve talked about living in a villa in Tuscany for a year or so.
Finally, when we make our annual trek to the Outer Banks on the North Carolina coast, we love to just sit on the beach all day and just “be.” My personal tradition is to remove my watch and put it away when we arrive at the beach and then put it back on when we leave.
All these things are forms of Savoring. Savoring is defined as any thoughts or behaviors capable of generating, intensifying, and prolonging enjoyment. In other words, savoring is a way to access and prolong positive emotions.
Dr. Fred Bryant (who coined the term “savoring”) says that savoring can take three forms related to the timing of the thing being savored. Some like to savor the past through reminiscing, others savor the future through the anticipation of things to come, and others enjoy just being in the present. Through his research, Dr. Bryant has also confirmed that savoring is very beneficial and healthy. Those who regularly and frequently savor are happier and more satisfied with life in general, they are more optimistic, and they are less depressed.
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).
By the way, my daughter never did find my hair, but we all keep looking and hoping – and savoring that special little moment.
Snyder, C.R. & Lopez, S.J. (2007) Positive Psychology: The Scientific and Practical Explorations of Human Strengths. Sage Publications.
Peterson, C., (2006). A Primer in Positive Psychology New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Books.
King Kong Rock at Lake Tahoe courtesy of RickC
This is my favorite article of yours, Doug. I relish savoring and I think it is at the heart of positive psychology. A+ aricle.
Fred’s original study* shows that savouring the moment is far more important than anticipating the future with regards to predicting happiness
*Journal of Mental Health [0963-8237] Bryant yr:2003 vol:12 iss:2 pg:175 -196
Jeff: Thanks for our kind words. I have enjoyed your responses and comments to the post on this website. I agree that in many ways the concept of savoring is at the base of many PosPsych concepts and interventions. In the end, its about noticing (or “attending to” ) the good around you – past, present, and future.
Wayne: Thanks for the response and the reference. This means that I need to spend more time at the beach just “being!” All the best, Doug