How do you respond during positive experiences in your life? Sometimes, in the midst of a happy moment, we are already focused on the next task or upcoming challenge, and we don’t take the time to fully experience the joy and richness of a positive event. Savoring is the ability to be aware of positive experiences and to enhance our enjoyment and appreciation of them. By actively savoring positive experiences, we can intensify positive feelings and make them last for a longer period of time. In addition to savoring the present moment, we can also savor by reminiscing about positive experiences in the past and anticipating positive experiences that will happen in the future.
A recent study reviewed research on interventions designed to increase people’s ability to savor positive experiences. Examples of past-focused savoring interventions included positively reminiscing about past events, writing three good things that happened that day, and recalling kind acts that were performed for others. Present-focused savoring interventions included learning about and using savoring strategies, taking walks and purposefully noticing positive things in the environment, and taking mindful photographs of positive objects. Finally, future-focused savoring interventions included imagining positive future events, writing about your best possible future self, and increasing awareness that a positive experience is about to end.
Overall, these savoring interventions led to more positive outcomes for participants, including greater happiness and positive affect. There were no differences in the effectiveness of savoring interventions that focused on past, present, or future experiences. Studies that administered a greater dose of the savoring intervention (i.e., times per day the savoring activities were administered multiplied by the length of the intervention) reported significantly larger effects.
These findings suggest that taking the time to notice and appreciate the positive experiences in your life will enhance your positive feelings and well-being. Greater savoring leads to more positive emotions, and positive emotions are associated with many additional benefits, such as better social interactions, faster recovery from stressful situations, and greater creativity and problem-solving processes.
This research suggests that you make an effort to savor your life more by:
- sharing exciting news and stories with your friends and family
- taking a moment each day to think of three good things that happened to you
- intentionally focusing your attention on positive aspects of the situation
- performing random acts of kindness and reflecting on your experience
- expressing gratitude to someone who has made your life better
- taking mental photographs of joyful or inspiring moments that you would like to remember in the future
Smith JL, Harrison PR, Kurtz JL, et al. Nurturing the capacity to savor: interventions to enhance the enjoyment of positive experiences. In: Parks AC, ed. The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Positive Psychological Interventions. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; 2014: 42–65.