The main challenge here is remembering to savour. To help with that, you could attach it to another habit, for example your belly breathing practice, brushing your teeth or even washing the dishes. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, you can cultivate a sense of awareness around the task and a sense of wonder and awe at the process.
Otherwise use positive emotions or events as a ‘positive trigger’ to remember to enjoy the moment. It doesn’t have to be a monumental action like climbing a mountain, but it can still be savoured as if you had just reached the summit of Mount Everest.
You might be wondering a little how to avoid ‘savouring the bad’ when negative emotions start to intrude. It will take practice to achieve a balance between ignoring (and repressing) them on the one extreme and indulging them to the point of overwhelm on the other. You could try belly breathing (Hack #1) to bring you back to presence or just reminding yourself that negative emotions are a sign there is some conflict going on between you and your inner critic. Welcome that with an attitude of nonjudgement and non-attachment3 and perhaps even a bit of curiosity, smile, take a few deep breaths and move onto something else.
One easy way to slip into savouring as a habit is to imagine yourself a child again, excited and entranced by the simplest of life’s sensations and curiosities.
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There are a number of good reasons to incorporate savouring into your daily life.
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, talks about ‘taking in the good’, where it becomes important to sit with good experiences in order to build a more positive narrative and experience of life. He explains that our brains are hardwired to remember the bad instantly – after all, our very lives may depend on it. However, the good things don’t embed into our brain quite as easily, so we need to give them a little more time.
Spending 10 or 20 seconds immersing yourself in the experience, 5 or 6 times per day, not only starts to embed this more positive experience of life, but, when done consistently over time, also has a neuroplastic effect – it actually produces physical changes to our brain. If you’re interested in this, then watch Dave Asprey interviewing neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, who talks more about this ‘taking in the good’1. Or you can watch Rick talk more about this in his Ted Talk9.
- Dave Asprey interviews Rick Hanson in a podcast well worth hearing
- A super cool infographic on savouring from the Happify crew, with heaps of references at the end if you want to investigate more
- Atkinson, Mark. True Happiness: Your complete guide to emotional health (p. 213). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition
- Study that looked at the effect of savouring on couples’ relationships
- Study predicting better psychological wellbeing through savouring
- Study looking at the effect of gratitude, optimism and savouring on well-being
- Study looking at the effect of regulating negative emotions and savouring positive emotions on anxiety in college students
- Study looking at the effect of savour on attention span
- Great Ted Talk from Rick Hanson, delving into this concept of ‘taking in the good’