The ability to savor life’s victories and sweet moments is a sign of a healthy, high-functioning and happy person.
People who can savor the upcoming joy of a vacation, a high school reunion or the birth of a child are much more likely to be resilient and happy in the moment, since they believe good things are coming their way. Consequently, they act in ways that will ensure the future they envision.
One of the tools that has successfully raised the level of well-being among senior citizens in nursing homes is “reminiscence therapy,” a form of journaling that encourages people who are approaching the end of their lives to look back with appreciation on what they’ve accomplished, and to share those stories with others. Not only has it been found to increase happiness but it is also thought to be a powerful tool to help make meaning of our lives – a natural urge as we grow older and feel that time is running out.
Savoring has many profound consequences, and people who are adept at savoring have been found to be happier, less anxious, more grateful, healthier, blessed with more friendships and even more persistent in the face of obstacles.
Here are a few ways I’ve seen folks improve their ability to savor sweet moments:
Learn how to meditate. Learning a form of meditation that encourages being more mindful of your emotions and actions can dramatically improve your ability to stay focused in each moment instead of being carried away by momentary surges of anger or anxiety.
Have photos of happy times everywhere. Scrapbooking is a positive and useful hobby because it promotes every aspect of savoring. When my mom struggled for years with Alzheimer’s, one of the best things we did to give her joy was to bring in old family albums. She reveled in looking at happy pictures from the past.
Celebrate with a “thank you” party. This is a clever and successful way to thank people who have been there for you or your family when you experience times of stress, illness, extended travel or juggling many bills.
Go on a quiet retreat. When you remove all distractions from your life, such as TV and unnecessary conversations and sounds, you begin to notice things that may have escaped you before, like the crunch of gravel under your feet, or the miraculous scent of springtime air. This kind of quick intervention into your life can have a lasting impact and can help you understand the meaning and important of savoring each precious moment.
Talk less and listen more. When you are busy talking and thinking about what you’ll say next, you are not listening to what is happening around you. When you quietly listen to others, and to what is happening around you, you are less distracted and more able to focus on what is happening, which will also have the benefit pf improving your friendships.
Institute of weekly savoring day. Many religions have one day a week set aside as a sacred day of attending to their faith and one’s moral growth. The point of a savoring day is to stop and take time to take stock of your life, be grateful for your blessings and to focus on what is positive.
Stop making comparisons. The happiest people have a way of looking around and, when they notice that they have more than others, counting their blessings. Unhappy people look up and make upward social comparisons, in which they devalue their moment of triumph by seeing who has more than they have, not how far they themselves have come. During the Olympics I have heard that silver medalists were more unhappy because they tended to look up and regret what they hadn’t achieved, while bronze medalists looked down and saw how much better they’d done than everyone else.
Tell stories. Happy families are regular storytellers, which may help explain why savoring flourishes in their families. By retelling your children’s exploits in front of family and friends, and allowing your spouse to replay his college greatness in sports, you help create a familiar and friendly savoring environment that benefits you and everyone else.
We all often fail to stop and celebrate what we’ve successfully accomplished in our lives. As Francois de la Rouchefoucauld said so well, “Happiness does not consist in things themselves, but in the relish we have of them.”