When you think of what makes you feel content, what gives you bumps of joy in your daily life, more often than not it’s the little things rather than the big events. And why is that? It’s because we notice these so-called little things and we savour them. The benefits of savouring the ordinary stuff of life are far-reaching.
In this episode we look at:
Podcast episode 7 How noticing the little things creates calm and joy
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m a writer and teacher specialising in overthinking and overworrying. Here I share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Hello and welcome to episode 7, today I’m talking about savouring and how the simple things in life, when paid attention to, really are the big things.
Savouring might be something you usually associate with a delicious meal. But savouring is something we can apply to all areas of our lives. It’s being aware of positive moments as they happen and it’s a growing area of positive psychology research. As more studies are carried out, more encouraging findings are being discovered. Fred Bryant of Loyola University Chicago is one of the leading authorities in this area and he’s found that savouring can have several benefits including developing stronger relationships and improving creative problem solving. It can also increase the range of positive emotions you feel and improve your mental wellbeing. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
So, there are four main parts to savouring an experience:
• There’s Anticipation which is looking forward to an event before it happens
• Appreciation – being mindful of the experience as it’s taking place. This can be combined with the next area of savouring
• Reminiscing which is reflecting on the experience after it happened, remembering how you felt as well as recalling other memories such as sounds, tastes and smells
• And the fourth is sharing the experience with others, at the time, before or afterwards
Let’s take each of those in turn.
First of all, anticipation
Looking forward to an event or experience plays a significant role in how you enjoy it. Imagine you’ve booked a city break for a few months’ time. When you spend time researching the area and where you’re going to visit, thinking about what you’re going to do, what to take, and how you’ll feel when you’re there, you’re getting enjoyment from the holiday before it even happens.
This form of savouring applies to more ordinary experiences too. Looking forward to a hot mug of tea when you’re walking home in the pouring rain helps you feel more positive in that not-so-pleasant moment. Anticipating a phone call with your best friend, half an hour’s peace with your gardening book or climbing into bed at the end of the day can give you as much joy as looking forward to more momentous occasions.
Savouring the good as it’s happening employs mindfulness, which is enormously beneficial to your wellbeing. Noticing the beauty and colour of a blooming flower or being absorbed in the experience of watching your favourite band play live, increases how happy you feel, and reduces stressed feelings, without you needing to do anything but just be aware of that present moment. There is wonder and awe all around us if we open our eyes to it. Something as simple as feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin, hearing your child laugh or walking past a magnolia tree in full bloom, and savouring it, can noticeably improve how calm, content and happy you feel.
And then there’s Reminiscing
Remembering a time when you felt good can help you when life gets tough. Picturing yourself in a positive situation or experience from the past can bring you comfort, all you need to do is remember. The more vividly you can recall the memory, fleshing out the details as much as possible, the more positive effect it will have on your mood. Spending time remembering previous experiences, and getting enjoyment from them, doesn’t mean you’re living in the past or trying to escape the realities of the present time. Quite the opposite in fact, reminiscing can actually give you perspective on current challenges, it can help you to appreciate certain parts of your life now and increase your confidence.
A study by Sonja Lyubomirsky and her research team revealed the lasting effects of savouring happy events from the past. The study’s participants were asked to think of one of the happiest days of their lives and replay it in their minds, recalling as much detail as they possibly could. They weren’t to analyse the memory, just replay the event and enjoy it again. The researchers found that those who performed this exercise for eight minutes a day for just three consecutive days felt more positive emotions four weeks later. It’s powerful stuff.
And finally there’s Sharing
This can work with the other elements of savouring to amplify your enjoyment. It makes sense that talking with a friend about the trip you’re taking together, planning where you’ll go and what you’ll do, and then appreciating the experience together as it’s happening will contribute to the joy and satisfaction you feel. Reminiscing about an experience with another person has been shown to increase the positive emotions you both feel, such as joy, contentment, amusement and accomplishment. And the older you are, and the more life experience you’ve had, the more enjoyment you can get from savouring memories.
Celebrating achievements and joyful moments with others increases the enjoyment you get from that moment. Making a big deal out of accomplishments isn’t something to shy away from if you want to increase how much joy you feel. Recognising and celebrating good news, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, is good for your wellbeing.
Now, something that might surprise you is that having pots of money doesn’t help you with savouring and all its benefits.
Research suggests that while money can provide more experiences and moments that give opportunities to savour, unless you consciously savour these moments your happiness won’t increase. And, if your life features big moments like making expensive purchases and taking exotic holidays, it could reduce the likelihood of you savouring the smaller moments like a chilled glass of wine, a freshly made bed or a laugh with a friend, which occur more often in our everyday lives.
So, here are seven ways to increase your opportunities for savouring
1 Think about the good things that are coming up for you, whether it’s longer-term like going to an event or something imminent like a hot bath and bed with your book. Imagine what the experience will be like, what you’ll do and how you’ll feel.
2 Open your eyes and look for the good in the world around you. Nature is a great resource for seeing beauty and creating a sense of awe and wonder, and Spring is an ideal season to spend time in a green space when you can.
3 Every so often check in with how you’re feeling to see if there’s something at that moment that you can appreciate, whether it’s a piece of work you’ve just completed, the peace and quiet of an empty house or the warm sun on your face.
4 Record happy moments, occasions and experiences by filming them or snapping a few photos, so that you can reminisce and recall the positive feelings you had at that time.
5 Give yourself time to remember past events that brought you joy, replay them in as much detail as possible.
6 When good things happen, to yourself or to others, and however big or small, celebrate them. Mark the occasion and take as much enjoyment as you can from that moment.
And finally number 7, share the good stuff with other people – plan fun adventures, appreciate what feels good while you’re experiencing it, and reminisce over happy memories.
Every day there are opportunities to experience more joy and contentment in ordinary life, it’s simply a matter of recognising these moments and savouring them.
Thank you for joining me for Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers. You can find the show notes and other episodes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
Spring is my favourite season. There’s so much potential and possibility at this time of year, and it gives us a fantastic opportunity to put into practice techniques that are proven to increase our wellbeing by being mindful of the season, appreciating everything around us, and savouring it. To maximise the enjoyment we can derive from Spring I’ve created a guide to savouring the season and stepping into Spring with mindful intention. It is packed with inspiration, guidance, worksheets, audio recordings, creative prompts and practical actions so that you can experience Spring with more mindfulness, calm, creativity, fun and clarity. Go to gabrielletreanor.com/ebooks to find out more and get your copy.
I love to see how you’re enjoying Spring so do share your photos on Instagram with hashtag savourtheseasonalshift and I’m @gabrielletreanor.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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