Savouring is the magical ingredient for sustaining a joyful mind.
Much of the time we don’t pay much attention to life’s ordinary little joys. They slip by unnoticed. Savouring brings a mindful awareness to our daily experience, meeting it in a new way and inviting it to deeply affect us.
In Andy Warhol’s words, “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
Yep, that is savouring in a nutshell.
THE WOW FACTOR
An exciting life-transforming practice, savouring works on the principle that we can chose what we pay attention to. And what we pay attention to determines what kind of brain we build and hence the quality of our ongoing lived experience.
It goes like this: much as the body is built from the foods we eat, the mind is built from the experiences we have.
Unfortunately, due to the inbuilt negativity bias of the brain, we tend to stew over negative experiences and overlook the good ones.
We unintentionally build neural circuits of negativity.
And then there’s the opposite of savouring: dampening, the habit of casting everything in a dim light that is clinically associated with depression.
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson explains that the brain is good at learning from the bad but bad at learning from the good. It’s like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.
For example, we may have nine pleasant but one unpleasant encounters at a party: the unpleasant encounter is the one we will remember.
Savouring doesn’t usually come naturally (well, except in the case of chocolate!).
To readdress the brain’s negativity bias, and so have more fun in life, we need to train ourselves to look out for good experiences. And then we need to relish them: the faces of children, the smell of rain, the vividness of an orange, the sweetness of a smile.
For me, this morning, it was the astounding beauty of a rooster’s feathers: the rich shades of orange and brown, the multiple layers of delicate feathers. Breath-taking.
When I’m speeding (which is often) I don’t notice. When I slow down, LINGER and LOOK, it’s so worth it!
A PHYSICAL EXPERIENCE
Savouring is not just looking: it’s a prolonged looking. Or rather, a prolonged noticing and most importantly, a feeling of the pleasure as a felt-sense in the body.
Savouring is a physical experience. It is inviting the feeling of pleasure to deeply sink in.
Duration is important. A good ten, twenty or thirty seconds is needed for the potency of savouring to take effect.
Feeeel it in your body. Let it be intense. Focus on how good it feels.
A BROAD APPROACH
Sensing and savouring doesn’t just have to be a present moment experience. We can recall special moments from the past and savour them or excitedly anticipate an upcoming treat.
The brain loves novelty, which is why the data shows that when people repeat an event frequently, such as a trip overseas, their enjoyment lessens compared to someone for whom it is a special occasion.
Well, we can trick our brain into novelty, and the special-occasion effect, by our deliberate acts of mindful savouring!
SAVOUR THE BENEFITS
What’s more, positive emotions such as savouring don’t just feel good in the moment; over time, they produce far-reaching benefits, including a stronger immune system and a cardiovascular system that is less reactive to stress.
Savouring is good for your health. And it is scientifically validated, known to stimulate prolonged activation of a brain region called the ventral striatum.
In general, people with enriched ventral striatum report higher levels of psychological well-being and have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol
Sonia Lyubormirsky, a world authority on scientific research into happiness, identifies savouring as related to intense and frequent happiness and to reduced feelings of hopelessness.
Hey, we don’t need a scientist to tell us that! The rewards of savouring are so immediately apparent it has got to be THE big fix for the instant-gratification society!
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