Savoring the moment, or becoming engrossed in a positive experience as it occurs in order to enhance or prolong the positive effect, is a useful tactic for improving ones happiness.
A recent study by Hurley and Kwon explores the idea of savoring the moment, and how it can potentially increase positive outcomes and decrease negative outcomes.
Previous studies have shown a positive association between savoring the moment and “satisfaction with life, subjective happiness, and positive affect.”
The authors of this study did not simply want to test for associations, but rather to see if an intervention designed to increase savoring the moment would lead to increased positive and decreased negative outcomes.
This type of study is far more relevant to us who are trying to increase our happiness because it determines causation rather than just correlation.
The participants first were assessed for positive affect, negative affect, and depressive symptoms by filling out questionnaires.
Next, they were divided into a control group and an intervention group.
All subjects were told they were participating in a study about changes in positive outcomes and distress over time, and that they would return in two weeks.
The intervention included education on positive psychology and savoring the moment, along with techniques for savoring and examples to illustrate them.
They were then asked to recall three positive events that occurred in the previous week and to list ways they could have savored those events.
The participants were instructed to use any technique to savor positive experiences over the following two weeks, and were given a savoring log to record how often they savored events each day.
During the experiment, they were reminded daily both to savor the moment and for techniques to do so.
After two weeks, all participants were reassessed for positive and negative outcomes.
The results suggested that intervention led to significantly lower levels of negative affect and depressive symptoms, but did not appear to change scores for positive affect.
While it is surprising that there was no change in positive affect, it is very reassuring that there was significant improvement in reducing negative affect and depressive symptoms.
For our purposes, we can use techniques of savoring the moment to improve our lives. It is also noteworthy that this was a strong effect, and a personalized plan applied more than once could have drastic results in terms of reducing negative outcomes or depression.
While this experiment does have limitations and further study is required to truly get to the bottom of this issue, it provides enough evidence to suggest that we incorporate techniques of savoring the moment into our daily lives.
How To Savor The Moment
So lets think about some techniques that enhance our ability to savor the moment then, shall we?
First things first, while many would argue (myself included) that we should at least attempt to live our full lives in the moment rather than just savoring the good parts, this particular post is only addressing savoring positive moments.
Anyways, on to the techniques.
Technique #1: Sharing
This is probably my favorite of the techniques.
Beer is a great example for this. Every once in a while I will try out a fantastic and most likely expensive beer.
While consuming it by myself is the financially sensible thing to do, I’ve found that the pleasure of drinking the beer is greatly magnified when I share it with someone else.
When I can discuss the intoxicating (haha) deliciousness of it with a friend, I enjoy it so much more.
Technique #2: Focus On The Details
Pay attention to the details of whatever it is you are doing/experiencing.
I think most people appreciate music more when they listen to it through headphones, or when it is extremely loud and prevents other sounds from distracting them.
In these instances, you are encouraged to focus on the details of the music, because there is nothing else. Oftentimes there is something cool in a song that you never would have noticed, and when you do notice it, it feels great!
Similarly, when it’s a beautiful day outside, pay attention to how the light breeze and warm sun feels on your skin, and take a real close look at the foliage or architecture you walk past.
Most things really do look awesome if you think about it.
Technique #3: Memory Building
You should do whatever you can to build a strong memory of your positive experiences.
Try to get a mental snapshot of what is happening that you can look back on later. Or take a souvenir.
In either case, this increases the duration of effect that a good experience can have.
Technique #4: Meditate
Practicing yoga or meditation can help your overall ability to savor the moment.
While not being a specific technique to be applied in the situation you are trying to savor, I have found that for several hours after a yoga session, I feel much more appreciative of whatever it is that I am doing.
I suggest you consciously try to apply these techniques to savoring the moment.
Like the above study, it is beneficial to have an intervention. Have a point in time where you are focused on improving this aspect of your life.
Unfortunately, it is not at all easy to apply this. It takes real work and practice.
Being dedicated and motivated to practice is simply necessary to grow in this area.
But it should also be enjoyable, so don’t take it toooooo seriously.
Here is a link to the study for anyone who is interested.