Savouring – new blog on Happy City & Bristol 247

Savouring – new blog on Happy City & Bristol 247

Miriam’s first blog for the UK’s first Happy City has just gone live at http://www.happycity.org.uk and at the  award-winning website for Bristol www.bristol247.com

Savour the Flavour of Positive Experience I’ve been savouring the apples given to me by friends who’ve had bumper harvests in their gardens this year. The savouring has taken as many forms as there are apples – marvelling at the abundance of this year’s crop, relishing all the shades of red and green, grateful for the generosity of my friends in sharing their fruit, luxuriating in happy childhood memories of baking, basking in the warm smells coming from the oven as I make eco-friendly crumbles (appreciating the lack of food miles), and best of all feasting on all these delicious treats! Marvelling, relishing, appreciating, luxuriating and basking are all types of savouring.

Savouring is a key technique in the psychology of enjoyment. It’s about getting the full flavour of a positive experience, so that you have a greater awareness of what’s good and a richer appreciation for whatever you’re savouring. This is a tool you can use to develop your capacity for joy, contentment and other positive emotions. You may wonder why anyone would need to know how to savour? Well the brain has a nasty little trick that it plays. We’re programmed to notice what’s wrong before we notice what’s right, to spot the fly in the ointment, the wonky hem on the wedding dress, the spelling mistake in the inspiring article and the dirty windows in the dream house. Savouring is a way of overcoming this ‘negativity bias’ so that you can fully appreciate the positive aspects of any experience.

You can savour something physical like a great cup of coffee or psychological like a time of peace and calm. You can savour across time – bask in a happy memory, savour the moment or relish the anticipation of something good coming up. Whatever you’re savouring there are four steps that can deepen the pleasure of the positive experience.

Slow down
Stretch out the experience
Apply your full attention & use all your senses
Reflect on the source of the enjoyment

Yes, this is about the metaphorical slowing down to smell the roses, which can be quite a challenge in this fast-paced era we’re living in. Taking the time too to give the savouring your full attention rather than multi-tasking with a hundred other things on the go like checking your messages (to all you smartphone addicts). Engage with the experience and use all your senses – take in the apple’s beautiful colours, notice its light fragrance, the change in texture as you take the first bite and relish the explosion of taste on your tongue. One of my clients followed these steps but had an unfortunate incident during her first attempt at conscious savouring. She went to the local park, stood amongst the trees admiring the lovely colours of the leaves, inhaled deeply expecting the delightful scent of nature but ended up smelling some not-so-fragrant doggy doo-doo! At least she got a good laugh out of it, accessing positive emotions via an unexpected route.

Reflecting on the source of enjoyment is something to watch out for as this is about adding to the pleasure rather than analysing it. So if you’re savouring the apple, you might reflect on memories of toffee apples, cider, harvest supper, apple-bobbing at Halloween etc. Engage totally in the experience and keep your head out of it to avoid the paralysis of analysis.

We all have a dominant sense, which will give you a route into conscious savouring to help cultivate those positive emotions. Here are some thoughts to get you started on savouring with the senses.

Savour the sight of… nature, sunrise & sunset, the colours of the seasons, pebbles on the beach, a beautiful work of art, the interplay of colours in mosaics and stained glass, houses with pastel-painted fronts…

Savour the sound of… music, the sea, rainfall, birdsong, bells, laughter, a language such as Italian…

Savour the smell of… flowers, grass after the rain, soap, perfumes, suntan oil, scented candles, essential oils, baking…

Savour the feel of… fresh bedlinen, walking barefoot, a massage, a pet’s fur, cool marble tiles, sun on your skin …

Savour the taste of…  well my list would include raspberries, chocolate, Earl Grey tea, pad thai, Sauvignon Blanc, a Saturday night thali, a Sunday roast, what about yours?

One final tip if you want to double up on the benefits of savouring is to share the experience with someone and get the joy bouncing back and forth between you.

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