Imagine putting a square of chocolate in the middle of your tongue (preferably 71% cacao), feeling it gradually melt and spread to the edges of your tongue, to the roof of your mouth, and down your throat, where the aftertaste lasts and lasts. This is what I think of when I hear the word “savor.”
However, I learned recently that “savor” has a broader definition. ‘Savoring life,” has become a relatively new subject for behavioral science research. Researcher Fred Bryant, from Loyola University in Chicago, defines “savoring” as “mindful attentional focus on positive feelings.” (This takes us back to two recent posts on this blog related to attention and focus. The information and inspiration for all three blogs comes from the book Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life.” Attention and focus are two topics I’ve obsessed about lately as I try to keep up my blog, write scenes for a novel, volunteer for two organizations, and produce a piece every other week for the local newspaper while remaining calm.)
In one of Dr. Bryant’s studies, one group of subjects took a walk every day for a week and looked for positive signs (nature, other happy walkers, cute pets), a second group looked for the negative (gang signs, harsh noises, dirty sidewalks), and a third walked for exercise only. The study’s results offered no surprises: group one walkers felt the happiest, group two the least happy, and group three fell somewhere in between. “The point of the study according to Dr. Bryant, is that “you see what you look for. And you can attend to the joy out there waiting to be had, instead of passively waiting for it to come to you.”
Other studies on the same topic revealed that women savor more than men, despite their relative lower economic status. These days people feel so connected to their work and their cell phones that they miss out on opportunities to savor a moment, a moment that once missed will not return. If you find you haven’t been savoring anything lately, this post gives you two places to start: first try a square of chocolate and then take a walk on a lovely autumn day.