On Happiness: Savoring the Moment
January 22, 2015
Hey guys! So… surprise! This is not a post about goal-setting. Here is the thing about goals: They don’t always proceed as expected. One needs contingency plans! What-if, if-then plans. For those times when, oh, you maybe get the flu when you were already not quite exactly on track. Sigh. It’s a work in progress. But let’s not call it a total bust, because – what, what?? I HAD A CONTINGENCY PLAN! I hope you enjoy it. Goal-setting illustrations coming next week.
When I was 21, I spent a couple months dragging an embarrassingly large backpack around Spain with my dear, darling, very tolerant friend, Shannon. We were in one of those tiny, dusty, crammed corner markets that seem to exist everywhere, and I wandered over to the stationery & craft stuff, as I do. I bought a little notebook, a pair of kids’ scissors and a glue stick. I think I imagined myself the cultured student, using the notebook to sketch famous artworks in the galleries we’d visit, though that doesn’t explain the glue stick and scissors… just your average stationery hoarding, I’d say.
We did try the sketching once, in a Picasso museum. Kinda awkward.
Instead, I ended up curled up in hostel bunks or smarmy little pensiones, surrounded by pocketfuls of maps, postcards and ticket stubs, doodling and gluing things into that notebook.
Keeping that notebook was weirdly enjoyable for me. Like, a lot more than I would have thought.
And so I did it again. In France… and Jerusalem… and Portugal… and.. okay, that’s it actually. But that’s still impressive to me, because frankly, I’m really just not a creature of habit. Like, sometimes I’m honestly pleased that I’ve managed to establish the habit of regular toothbrushing. It’s true, I do love crafts, but it was something more than that… When I worked on those notebooks, the crappy or boring parts of the day would disappear and the parts that I thought were really beautiful or cool would take on this kind of exciting technicolour. And that totally made me feel happier.
Turns out, there’s a whole theory about that. I think that what my notebooks were helping me to do was something psychologists call savoring. And I think it’s really cool actually, and worth knowing about.
Savoring Makes Us Happier
Savoring is a way to get more mileage out of the good times. It basically means really focusing on the good moments. When approached in a certain way, we can stretch those bits out and prolong the nice feelings that go along with them.
People who do a lot of savoring report feeling happier and more satisfied with their lives than those who don’t1. In fact, someone who’s a little short on good moments, but good at savoring them seems to be just as happy as someone who has plenty, but doesn’t do a lot of savoring2.
What I really like, though, is that we can actually do things to savor better, i.e., enjoy stuff more and feel happier3,4. So, how exactly does one savor? The (delightfully simple) basics are as follows:
So you def don’t need to keep a notebook like mine to savor. For me, it helps because, yeah, I’m kind of a crafty person, but more so because it gives me a more concrete reason to mentally tuck away the loveliest details.
Truthfully, the only time I seem able to actually keep up a notebook is on vacation (when I especially need it, right? ha!). Still, I feel like it’s helped because I’ve got the process now. Most of the time it’s enough to just take pause throughout the day to notice those sweet, fleeting moments. Ahhhh.
So, what do you think? Do you have savoring-type habits? I think a lot of people probably do clever things, even inadvertently, to drink in the good times. Or maybe it’s something you’d like to do more of? I’d really love to hear.
P.S. Keep on scrolling if you’d like to see a bunch of my notebook pages, plus some (uh, gently facilitated) pages from my son when he was just shy of two!
On Jerusalem: I was sitting in the quiet square outside the Dome of the Rock, drawing one of its beautiful tiles when a little group of local kids approached me, while their parents were in the mosque. They sat with me for 30 minutes, chatting, sharing their chocolate (see wrapper), and drawing pictures. It was the sweetest thing.
- Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Hurley, D. & Kwon, P. (2013). Savoring helps most when you have little: Interaction between savoring the moment and uplifts on positive affect and satisfaction with life. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14. 1261-1271.
- Hurley, D. & Kwon, P. (2012). Results of a study to increase savoring the moment: Differential impact on positive and negative outcomes. Journal of Happiness Studies, 13. 579-588.
- Jose, P., Lim, B. & Bryant, F. (2012). Does savoring increase happiness? A daily diary study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3). 176-187.