What Is Savoring? Definition, Meaning, and Examples
Want to know feel more positive emotions? Then learn to savor. By savoring you can hold onto positive emotions long after whatever caused them is long gone. Here are some savoring techniques.
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Too often we let the good moments pass without truly celebrating them. Maybe your friend gives you a small gift, a colleague makes you laugh, or a rainbow stretches across the sky. These are just tiny moments, and the positive emotions associated with them fade . . . but they don't have to. We just have to savor them.
So what is savoring? And why is savoring such a powerful tool for boosting positivity and building happiness?
What is savoring?
Savoring just means that we attempt to fully feel, enjoy, and extend our positive experiences. Savoring is a great way to develop a long-lasting stream of positive thoughts and emotions, because positive events cannot always be relied on to make you happier.
After spending the last year researching and writing my new book, Outsmart Your Smartphone: Conscious Tech Habits for Finding Happiness, Balance, and Connection IRL, I've come to appreciate the power of savoring in our screen-obsessed world. Want to practice savoring? Try these different savoring techniques to see what works best for you.
Here's a video with a bit more info on what savoring is and why it matters:
1. Savor the past.
Savoring the past is perhaps the easiest way to practice savoring. To do it, just spend a few minutes thinking about a happy, joyful, or pleasant event that happened to you in the last week or month. For example, you could think about “hanging out with friends, or completing an important project.”
As you are thinking back on the pleasant event, think about the people, smells, sounds, physical sensations, and sights that you experienced. Think about — and try to re-create — the positive emotions that you felt around the time of the event. As you are savoring, let your thoughts wander to anything else about the happy experience that makes you feel good. Then, just mentally hold on to whatever feels good.
Take a deep breath, and pay attention to how these emotions feel in your body. Let the emotions fade on their own, until you are ready to go back to whatever else you were doing.
To savor the past, you could also look through old photos until you find one that reminds you of a positive event that you long forgot. Spend a few moments thinking deeply about this event. As you are thinking back on the pleasant event, think about the people, smells, sounds, physical sensations, and sights that you experienced. Think about – and try to re-create – the positive emotions that you felt around the time of the event. As you are savoring, let your thoughts wander to anything else about the happy experience that makes you feel good. Then, just mentally hold on to these emotions, trying to make them as strong as possible.
If you'd like a writing activity for savoring, check out our savoring activity here.
Here's an audio version of this savoring exercise
2. Savor the present.
Are you that person who stops to notice and appreciate the small pleasures that life has to offer? If not, then you could benefit from practicing savoring the present. You do this by paying attention any time you experience something positive. Whenever you notice yourself feeling good, mentally hold on by thinking about the positive emotions and what caused them.
For example, there are near-infinite positive moments that just pass us by when we're cruising the Internet. But if we stop for a moment to savor and appreciate these moments, we can make them last longer. So as you are surfing the Internet, pay attention anytime you experience something positive. Maybe your friend shares a video that inspires you. Maybe a colleague posts a joke that makes you laugh. Or maybe you watch a video that teaches you something interesting. If you find that your social media is dominated by negative stuff, there are tons of cat videos or awe-inducing landscapes available. Just navigate over to Youtube to find one. (I've added in a vineyard to savor below if that suits you.
Savoring exercise: Savor being in this vineyard
When you notice yourself feeling good, mentally pause and pay attention to how these positive emotions feel in your body. Think about how good these emotions feel and how much you appreciate feeling this way. You may want to also include gratitude by reminding yourself that you are grateful for this moment, or whatever caused this moment.
3. Capitalize on the present.
To savor your positive emotions even longer, you can do what is referred to as “capitalizing on positive events.” Capitalize on the moment when you feel good by showing it, telling it, or sharing it with others right away. Keep in mind that the positive thing that happens doesn’t have to be anything special. You could simply have woken up on the right side of the bed and think, “Hey, I’m feeling great today” and then share that with someone else.
“Show it” by expressing the positive emotions in your facial expressions and body language. For example, you could smile, laugh, or throw your hands up in the air. These expressions of happiness can help prolong the positive feelings.
“Tell it” by talking to someone about why you’re happy. You might call or text a friend to talk to the people around you about what you’re feeling. Others tend to respond well to expressions of positive emotions, which can further generate more positive emotions for you.
“Share it” by sending a text message or posting kindly on social media. If there is something you are feeling good about, particularly something that would make others feel good too, share it far and wide with a post. Just be careful not to post things that might make other people feel worse (like if you got something that someone else wanted).
4. Savor the future.
Did you know we often experience positive emotions when we strive for a goal, even before we have achieved that goal? That’s right. How? By using imagination to increase happiness.
For example, you might be looking forward to a vacation this summer. If so, you could practice savoring by thinking about what you’ll do, who will be there, and the positive emotions you hope to feel. As a result, you’ll generate positive emotions from an event that hasn’t even happened yet.
A couple more savoring tips:
The power of savoring:
A few more ideas about what to savor:
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.