Before Christmas as I was baking Snicker doodles and listening to a Bruce Cockburn Christmas CD, I reminisced over my times of baking Christmas cookies for friends in the past years back when I was in Chicago. I also turned my mind to the importance of savoring memories and savoring in general. Some months ago I read the book Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience, by Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff. Their book looks at their 20 years of research on the subject of savoring and its benefits for daily life and enjoyment of life.
Their basic definition of savoring is that people have the “capacities to attend to , appreciate and enhance the positive experiences in their lives." Looking at Merriam Websters definition of Savor it is to season , to taste, to relish or delight in, to enjoy. This is such a great term in considering living more than an ok existence. In savoring life we are enjoying and delighting in tasting our life journey. Savoring is similar to mindfulness in being aware of the present moment but more broad as it encompassed reflections over the past and enjoyment of present activities. It is also similar to flow in that savoring has a timelessness quality to it in that you slow down and just enjoy the sunset or watch the birds at the bird feeder while you are enjoying your morning cup of coffee without thinking about what should come next in your time schedule. Savoring of memories or situations can be done individually or you can have a savoring time with close friends or family.
Of course the stress and hurry of life keeps us looking at the clock instead of the sunset. With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday season I am glad while baking I thought of savoring. Even though the baking for 5 hours was a lot of work in mixing ingredients spooning out cookie dough, with the Christmas music in the background and the smell of finished cookies, I could think back of memories of years ago. Even back to when as a boy I looked forward to a neighbor who would drop by her freshly baked cookies to our home. Weeks ago someone at the grocery store I met talked about how busy she was and since cookie tins are so cheap and time is so lacking buying Christmas cookies is the best way to go. If that gives her more time to savor the Christmas season with her friends and family great but that afternoon of baking helped me think through memories of past Christmas times and gave some fresh baked gifts to give to dear friends.
The benefits of taking time for moments of savoring has been shown to lower stress as you are slowing down for times of reflection on the present experience-- such as the awesomeness of enjoying God’s creation or even savoring the taste of a delicious home made brownie. Both are savoring moments. The positive feelings that occur through savoring helps build positive emotions and increases happiness levels. Having a savoring mindset also helps us enjoy the journey of life. Too often we are busy getting to the destination which is important; but when I am driving for example I like to point out beautiful gardens or check out the cows grazing in the fields along the way, instead of just staring at the road ahead. Savoring helps us enjoy the journey.
Drs. Bryant and Veroff in their book have an exercise which can help in building a savoring mindset. They encourage for a week to try out a daily vacation of 20 minutes a day. Do something you enjoy -- a walk on the beach, reading a favorite book, drinking coffee while listening to music. Try a few different activities during the week not the same thing each day. During this time make a commitment to enjoy yourself -- make sure to say no to interruptions. Be totally free and just focus on what you are doing on your daily vacation. As you do your vacation activity take note of feelings you feel and build memories of the experience. Especially take note of positive emotions. After your 20 minute daily vacation experience plan the next vacation experience for the next day. Take a few moments to savor the vacation and reflect over the positive feelings from the previous days vacations. This can be done verbally or in a journal. At the end of the week reflect over and savor each of the daily vacations. Think over the positive feelings you experienced each day. Compare how you feel now over how you feel on a normal week of your life.
Another creative exercise to build up savoring skills in your life is their Camera Exercise. On a sunny day take your camera to a secluded area like a park, beach or a place in the country. Then find an object that catches your attention. It could be a flower, a tree, a building, the waves crashing onto the beach. Now start taking pictures at various angles. Get into a flowing mindset of shooting various pictures of the object. Don’t think and judge, just look at alternative shots to take with your camera. Feel the shots that you enjoy taking and don’t worry about balance. Try to take 30-40 pictures this way. Finally, as I assume in this digital age and you are using a digital camera; download the pictures to your computer and savor the experience, take time to reflect over the pictures . Ponder how you feel about the pictures and the object you were shooting. If you journal you may want to right down some memories of this experience.
Savoring our journey in this life can help us appreciate the goodness of God in our daily life. We can be more observant of the details that make up our day. Slowing down to notice the roses or another person’s smile may help in combating a grumbling attitude. As when we rush through the day, we usually just notice the negative things that occur to us.
Reflect on this:
“The aim of life is appreciation. “ G.K.Chesterton (1936) Make a list of 10 things you are appreciative of in your life. Take time to savor over the list as to memories of why these are important to you. How can you be more appreciative in your daily life? Can you slow down your life to savor and enjoy the journey more?