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.
I suppose it is the same thing, just differently said, but – when I bring my attention to this moment – and just am aware of being here – now – I always have a sense of peace. It is difficult to remain here and now – but practiced – becomes easier (I’m still practicing) These are times when I may be doing nothing but sitting and “being aware”.
It is encouraging that reseach is looking at what makes people happier and more appreciative of life. “Savoring” life sounds like study similar to Positive psychology, about which there are many articles. Wikipedia describes it as: “Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology whose purpose was summed up in 1998 by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: “We believe that a psychology of positive human functioning will arise that achieves a scientific understanding and effective interventions to build thriving in individuals, families, and communities.”Positive psychologists seek “to find and nurture genius and talent”, and “to make normal life more fulfilling”, not simply to treat mental illness. The field is intended to complement, not to replace traditional psychology. It does not seek to deny the importance of studying how things go wrong, but rather to emphasize the importance of using the scientific method to determine how things go right. Researchers in the field analyze things like states of pleasure or flow, values, virtues, talents, as well the ways that they can be promoted by social systems and institutions.”
Ann: With all you do, it would helpful to rest of us who can’t squeeze so many activities into our day if you would explain how you plan and organize your time now that you are retired and seem to have more of it that many of us. Your activities, accomplishments and interests are very impressive. S.
Ann, I really wanted to savor this blog, but you so entrapped me with your opening paragraph that all I could think of was that chocolate melting on my tongue. So I am glad to see that Jill and Sharon were able to get beyond that and actually write meaningful comments. . .for me, I am off to find some chocolate!
Dark chocolate-covered caramels: have one after dinner…so good!