When you’re having a good day, or even a good moment, do you savor it? If so, you are actively boosting your overall happiness and even your health. Savoring is defined as the ability to notice positive experiences and engage in thoughts and behaviors that enhance your enjoyment of the experience.
“We don’t always take the time to notice good things that are happening in our lives. Savoring is a way to make the most of positive experiences,” says Jennifer Smith, PhD, director of research at Mather Institute. The Institute is the research arm of Mather, the not-for-profit parent company to Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Oro Valley. The Institute is an award-winning resource for research and information about wellness, aging, trends in senior living, and successful aging service innovations.
Dr. Smith has conducted several studies on savoring, and one involved surveying 267 older adults to measure their savoring, life satisfaction, and self-reported health. “We found that the relationship between self-reported health and satisfaction with life was different for people with high and low savoring abilities,” she says. “When savoring ability was low, people reported lower life satisfaction when their health was poor. However, those with a high ability to savor reported significantly greater satisfaction with life—even when they were in poor health. This suggests that the ability to savor positive experiences can help people respond more resiliently to health challenges.”
The good news is that you can practice savoring and strengthen your ability to pay attention to positive experiences, appreciate enjoyable or meaningful experiences, and build positive feelings. Savoring does not necessarily have to occur during an event—it can take place when you reminisce about a past positive event, or when you recall how you felt during a happy experience. Or savoring can occur when you anticipate an upcoming positive event or imagine a future happiness.
Dr. Smith’s research showed that older adults who practiced simple five-minute savoring exercises twice a day for six or seven days reported higher resilience, greater happiness, and lower depression compared to those who didn’t fully complete the exercise. There were three steps to the savoring exercise: 1) think about a positive experience, 2) pay attention to positive feelings that arise, and 3) take a moment to appreciate the experience.
The fact that you can take small steps to increase your overall happiness is reason to make anyone happy!