Bitesize Health Hack #6

You are invited to…

Savour the gift of every moment

There is no doubt that an attitude of gratitude has many positive benefits, making you happier5,6, better at relationships4, less depressed5,6 and anxious6,7, more resilient5 and even able to pay attention for longer8.

You’ve probably heard of the popular habit of gratitude journaling and I know many people who religiously carry out daily journaling because it has such a positive impact for them.  But for some of us burnout zombies, journaling is just another tedious chore to add to an already bulging to-do list of ‘things to fail at.’  So, when I discovered savouring (or savoring for some), I was delighted.  I’m all for things that involve less (or no) work and more pleasure.  And savouring the good stuff does just that!

Savouring is really an extension of our Hack #5.  It takes that same state of mindfulness we applied to eating and expands it to ALL the good stuff. Savouring is simply about really paying attention to the good things in life… noticing the awesome, wonderful, inspiring and sometimes crazy stuff that goes on around us.  It is an opportunity to stop and smell the roses.

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THE HACK

Savour the good in your life

for at least 20-30 seconds

five or six times per day.

Happy clean air Asian woman breathing in fresh outdoor nature forest panoramic banner for allergy free pollen allergies.

The Challenges

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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My take on the

SCIENCEY SHIZZLE

(if you’re all about “But why…?”)

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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.

Savouring experience in your life is also an opportunity for gratitude and there are many, many studies that support the hugely beneficial effect of gratitude and gratitude journaling on physical health and psychological well-being.  That is a whole other topic, for another hack, but if you do choose to try gratitude journaling, then there are studies to suggest that journaling three times per week is more effective than every day (probably this little fact stuck with me as I love it when the science supports doing less work and I thought you might too).

And finally, savouring requires you to engage all the senses, to enlarge your awareness to everything that is happening around you.  That helps you to get Presence (yup that again), and from Presence, you are able to live with intent, making better choices and taking action that aligns with what you really want from life, not from subconscious habit or conditioned fear.  No reference here, just practise it and experience it yourself.

Some extra good news… studies show that the less happy and satisfied with life you are, the better the effect of practising savouring5,7!

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References
  1. Dave Asprey interviews Rick Hanson in a podcast well worth hearing
    https://blog.daveasprey.com/rick-hanson-forgetfulness-mindfulness-techniques-hardwiring-happiness-243/
  2. A super cool infographic on savouring from the Happify crew, with heaps of references at the end if you want to investigate more
    https://www.happify.com/hd/savoring-makes-us-happier-infographic/
  3. Atkinson, Mark. True Happiness: Your complete guide to emotional health (p. 213). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition
  4. Study that looked at the effect of savouring on couples’ relationships
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30696329/
  5. Study predicting better psychological wellbeing through savouring
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28380722/
  6. Study looking at the effect of gratitude, optimism and savouring on well-being
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29781723/
  7. Study looking at the effect of regulating negative emotions and savouring positive emotions on anxiety in college students
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30908167/
  8. Study looking at the effect of savour on attention span
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31739249/
  9. Great Ted Talk from Rick Hanson, delving into this concept of ‘taking in the good’
    https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-stand-up-to-your-inner-critic/