While on my honeymoon I had the opportunity to eat at delicious restaurants. When I say delicious, I mean some of the most delicious restaurants I’ve ever experienced. As we ate these delicious (and itty bitty portioned—what’s up with that?) meals, my husband and I took the time to really enjoy every bite. Sometimes we would set our forks down and just really taste every single flavor and morsel. I can still taste the chocolate lava cakes and the scallops, truly divine!
This experience taught me quite a bit about the importance of savoring. Savoring is not just about tasting chef-designed masterpiece meals, it’s also about being present in the moment. It is the epitome of having an embodied, fully present, grateful experience. There’s sort of a formula for savoring which is as follows: savoring= positive feelings about an experience + acknowledgement of positive feelings and experience. Savoring is recognizing the beauty of a moment or experience and the specialness of it. Savoring can be utilized with moments big and small.
My experience with savoring my meals on my honeymoon helped me to be more appreciative of the skill in general. When I was in my undergrad, I took a Positive Psychology course. In this course we studied savoring as part of our mindfulness unit. Savoring is kind of like the age-old adage of “focusing on the positive” but without the saccharine approach that neglects pain. Savoring is recognizing and focusing on the beauty and reveling in it. In my experience, there are three main benefits of savoring.
- Appreciating flavors you may have missed
- Experiencing rather than “going through the motions”
- The sense of awe and gratitude at the human experience
I felt a little bit like I was in a movie in a vineyard wine-tasting escapade on my trip as I paid special attention to all unique flavors. I felt each flavor hit my taste buds and racked my brain to describe what was happening in each combination. How often do I consume food without really, truly tasting each flavor? Taking this metaphor away from food, how often do I take for granted simple experiences in my own life, missing the unique and beautiful flavors even simplicity offers me? That’s the beauty of savoring: when we take time to slow down and appreciate the joy of the present moment, we are able to catch things we typically miss in our busy lives. Savoring is a skill and it’s a skill we need to practice and cultivate to really benefit from. Developing the skill of savoring has huge mental health benefits. In older adults, savoring has been linked to better general health, energy, social functioning, and overall life satisfaction (Smith & Bryant, 2016).
These meals I had on my honeymoon were not just meals, they were experiences. I was able to appreciate not only the flavor, but the ambiance, the décor, etc. That’s the second benefit of savoring: savoring turns average processes and events into true experiences. When we are savoring moments, even small moments, they become experiences. I have this feeling often in the summertime when driving in the car and singing to the radio. Although my daily commute is mundane, it can soon feel like a clip from a movie montage of my life if I give it it’s proper attention through savoring. Although we cannot consistently be in a state of perpetual savoring, when we are able to tap into this skill, we can turn typical day-to-day events into experiences worth noting.
Sometimes when eating a meal, I feel a sense of awe that our bodies have so many various senses in which to understand and engage with the world. One of my favorite benefits of savoring is the awe that I feel at the human experience. When I was a college freshman everything about the human experience was new and fun and exciting to me. I was taking in every moment I could and savoring it well. There was this big set of stairs I had to walk up daily. They were infamous and no one would get to the top in the summertime without a glimmer of sweat and a quickened heart rate.
One day as I was walking down the stairs I recognized how quickly my legs and feet were moving. Seamlessly they would find the next stair, connect, and send me forward. I exclaimed to a friend, “How do our feet even DO that? How can we even walk so fast up and down the stairs without falling on our faces?” I was truly filled with awe at the human body and its finesse. I didn’t know it then, but looking back, I was savoring that moment. It wasn’t necessarily a fun moment (my face was absolutely ruddy at the top of the stairs) but savoring allowed me to find joy and appreciation in it.
So, here’s the challenge: try to apply the “formula” for savoring in your life more this week. Remember, savoring= positive feelings about an experience + acknowledgement of positive feelings and experience. Try journaling or tapping into gratitude as you do this. What are the benefits of savoring you see in your life? How easy or hard is it for you to savor? Let us know!
Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff, Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience
Smith JL, Bryant FB. The Benefits of Savoring Life: Savoring as a Moderator of the Relationship Between Health and Life Satisfaction in Older Adults. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development. 2016;84(1):3-23. doi:10.1177/0091415016669146