Savoring is a set of skills that can be learned in order to increase the positive emotion we experience in our day-to-day existences.
Psychologists Fred Bryant and Joseph Veroff published a book last year on this subject:
According to them, savoring involves noticing and appreciating the positive aspects of life. In a way, it is a counterpart to coping with negative aspects of life. Savoring involves mindfulness and “conscious attention to the experience of pleasure” (p. 5).
Walking around my garden is a great opportunity to savor. There’s the lemony scent of magnolia blossoms. This year we had more than 15 blossoms in our tree — more than we’ve ever had before in the little tree we planted 20+ years ago. I guess trimming the trees around it to give it more sunlight made a big difference. I had so much fun these last few weeks finding and counting the buds and anticipating their beauty. Now I can luxuriate in their sweetness.
My husband has planted a butterfly garden complete with flowers that they like and large stones with hollows that collect tiny drinking places and give them spots to grow warm before they try to fly again. We also planted parsley with the hopes of attracting the parsley worms that turn into black swallowtail butterflies. Observing butterflies is a wonderful opportunity to savor. They arrive when they want to, flitter around, and then are gone. The best we can do is try to anticipate their needs. Unfortunately, our garden doesn’t have a great deal of sun, so it is hard for them to get warmed up to take flight. When we see them, we stop to look and marvel. We also bask in my husband’s forethought and efforts to make a small world to please them.
Our fig tree is starting to be full of green figs. Often when I look at the tree, I remember the cold snap in about 1985 that killed the tree to the ground. We mourned its loss, but our grief turned out to be premature. It has grown back taller than the house. The squirrels jump back and forth between the roof and the taller branches, and we can pick figs from the upper story windows. So looking at the tree is a source of thanksgiving, that what we thought was dead is now so alive.
Bryant and Veroff describe several savoring processes that regulate other positive experiences (p. 14), including
- Marveling regulates awe.
- Thanksgiving regulates gratitude.
- Basking regulates pride.
- Luxuriating regulates physical pleasure
These are all processes that can be practiced intentionally so that they become more common and habitual, increasing the positive experiences in our lives.