On Happiness: Savoring the Moment

tjcollage for WEB2

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!


Jerus-Collage-for-webOn 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.




  1. Bryant, F. & Veroff, J. (2007). Savoring: A new model of positive experience. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Jose, P., Lim, B. & Bryant, F. (2012). Does savoring increase happiness? A daily diary study. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3). 176-187.

11 thoughts on “On Happiness: Savoring the Moment

  1. Johanna

    This is fantastic!! I loooooove your travel journals and you are connecting them here in such a natural way to the research. It makes me think a bit about how you instagram too- and how some people post to facebook constantly- especially tagging themselves at a location for example. Although this is usually criticized for not being “in the moment”, maybe it is actually an example of someone consciously recognizing that they are really enjoying that moment, and taking a second to commemorate it. It’s savoring! It also allows us to return to that moment, to only remember that good stuff that we wanted to savor.

    PS Jonah’s is adorable. Can you come and do art with my babies?? Xoxo

    1. Elena

      Try and STOP me from doing art with your babies!! You know, I think there is definitely an element of that – celebrating and preserving a moment, and I know that personally I actually Instagram MORE when I am calm feeling good and noticing everything lovely, but still, I actually deliberately left out any talk about taking pictures because there seems to be mixed information out there on that – I read a study that talked about how when people reminisced (reminiscence is kind of like savoring past moments) using photographs, they were more likely to limit themselves to the details of the photograph, whereas when people used, say an object that reminded them of the experiences or just deliberately conjured up the experience their memories were richer, and they remembered more personally poignant bits. I guess this is all to say – I totally think pictures can totally function to help people savor, but they can also be limiting. It probably has to do with how the person is doing it, consciously – know what I mean?

  2. Allison

    I love seeing all the different art and sketches from your travels. It is especially good for me to stop and breathe right now – thank you for the reminder.

    1. Elena

      Ohh It’s basically always good for me to remember, too! I’ve been following along on twitter – sounds like it’s been an exciting week for you – I’m so stoked for you, girl tech superstar! I’m getting really inspired to learn more coding, which is fully a first!

  3. Josie Todd

    This post and your blog in general are truly wonderful. Though I haven’t seen you in more than a decade, and I generally don’t read blogs, this is like Sark meets the Shambhala Sun. So great! Thanks for sharing your talent and insight.

    1. Elena

      Josie, your comment made my day! It’s so, so affirming to hear that you appreciated it and I dig the comparison ? I’d love to continue to hear what you think!

  4. Michelle

    Elena! I love your blog page, this is awesome! I love the way you write! It’s exciting just to read. -Have to savor your blogs! 🙂
    God bless you, genius Mama!

  5. Bianca Bartlett

    Hi Elena!
    It so nice to read an article that has the supporting materials listed! You know how much I enjoy research ; my light bulb just sparkled upon seeing the footnotes.
    Congratulations my dear! It is a wonderful, wonderful way how you describe being happy! In fact your entire website is absolutely wonderful ( only today I was able to come back here 🙂 !
    Btw: I made it my goal to catch up with your previous posts and I will use your guide goal in achieving this ! 😉
    Lots of Love from us!
    Happy Valentines Day!

    1. Elena

      Dear Bianca!
      I missed your comment before! Awww, thank you so much for making the effort to spend some time looking around the blog, and OH MY GOSH for your amazingly thoughtful, eloquent, compelling comment on my first post! It warrants more discussion for sure.
      I’m also so glad to see the referencing being appreciated – I think it’s important too 🙂
      I hope you all had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

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