Savoring is quite possibly the most impactful micro habit in my life. The act of taking a moment to savor brings me joy in the moment, and it fills me with a sense of gratitude and peace, it connects me to people in my life and inspires me to slow down.
What is savoring?
In the present, savoring is stopping to pay attention to and appreciate whatever you are doing right now. In the past, savoring is calling up a memory or experience and reliving it with joy. In the future, savoring is a visualization activity, imagining what an experience will be like.
In Positive Psychology, we say that the formula for happiness is satisfaction with the past, plus contentment in the present, and hope for the future. The act of savoring can contribute to all three.
The evidence shows that practicing savoring both prolongs and reinforces feeling good. Positive emotions are known to help us to release stress, build our resilience, and bounce back better from challenging experiences.
Joy & Grief
Savoring connects us to our joy and our humanity. Understanding savoring allows us to experience the good in life alongside the bad.
For me, the best example of this duality of experience recalls my grandmothers. Both women were hugely impactful in my life, and I miss them terribly. Taking the time to remember our conversations, things they said, lessons they taught me, or cooking their favorite foods, brings me deep joy.
I adore and love to savor the crunchy end of a baguette or a roll from the corner of the bread pan, because this was my grandmother Mary’s favorite part. I enjoy the crunch — the sound and the texture in my mouth — and oddly enough — I think of her almost every time I eat the crunchy end of the bread!
When we are separated from our loved ones or our friends, sharing or savoring a memory together can encourage the release of oxytocin and deepen our relationship.
Separated from your partner, your mom, or your BFF during this COVID-19 crisis? Recall a wonderful memory and share this memory with your person over the phone, video, or even text.
Maybe you find yourself prone to over-indulgence right now, or you are down to your last bottle of wine, a bar of chocolate, or another favorite treat. When you eat or drink your treat, slow down. Gurgle the wine in your mouth like you are at a vineyard wine tasting or let the chocolate slowly melt on your tongue. Savor.
Instead of inhaling your treat like a dog eating her chow, slow down and savor.
Get creative — what else can you savor? You can turn almost any activity from breathing to walking to eating, drinking, and making love into a “savoring” event.
The Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh teaches a mediation on eating an orange, piece by piece. Sitting in a comfortable-to-you meditation pose, you slowly peel and eat your orange, piece by piece—mindful of the flavor, the texture, the juice, the color.
The Zen of Eating
From my teenage years until my early thirties, I suffered from a mild eating disorder. I counted my calories and fat consumption, read every label and felt guilt no matter what I ate or when. One day I came across a little book titled the Zen of Eating. In this book, the author teaches you to savor your food and to notice why you are eating.
Essentially, the author uses notice, name, and navigate to teach us to let go of emotional eating and the guilt of eating. The freedom I found in this book still allows me (more than a decade later) to savor my food. When I eat ice cream I know, it’s my choice and I enjoy it. When I drink wine, I enjoy a glass or two, but not the whole bottle (or if I do, I know why I am doing so).
Savoring and noticing allows us to make choices about what we do and how we feel. During this time in which it feels like the world has been pulled out from underneath us, I invite you to savor. Empower yourself to slow down and be present. Life happens.
We are gifted with the ability to breathe unconsciously, and yet, we are very conscious that a lack of breath is the kiss of death. And so, in this, I invite you to savor your breath.
Breathing in, I am alive.
Breathing out, I am joy.
Breathing in, I am sadness.
Breathing out, I honor my grief.
Breathing in, I am love.
Breathing out, I have hope.
Breathing in, I enjoy my breath.
Breathing out, I am at peace.
Start today with the intention to savor something small. Start with your breath or try an orange meditation. Recall a happy memory, and then share it with someone important to you. The more that you intentionally slow down and savor, the more you will grow this as a micro habit, making it a part of your daily life and building your resilience.