How to savour the moment and cultivate positivity

Students walking on move in dayDo you feel negative thoughts cloud your memories of big events in your life or even your day-to-day living? It could be that you did have a positive experience, but because of the way your thoughts have framed the memory, you can no longer remember the good things that happened. Building your savouring skills might be the answer for you. According to Miriam Akhtar, the author of Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression, savouring “is the capacity to appreciate and enhance positive experiences in life.” Savouring something involves slowing down and appreciating everything that is going on during a positive experience.

What you choose to savour can be big (like special occasions, accomplishments, or a holiday) or small (like a hug, a time that you laughed so hard you couldn’t stop, a book you enjoyed, or a food you enjoy), the important part is that you concentrate on observing the positive aspects of your experience.

According to Akhtar, there are four steps to savouring:

  1. Slow down the experience as long as you can
  2. Pay full attention to the experience
  3. Take a full senses approach
  4. Take time to reflect on what you enjoyed

Here’s an example based on the experience of going to the gym:

Climb on to your favourite piece of gym equipment. Appreciate that you’ve taken a step towards both your physical and mental health. Feel gratitude that you are able to attend the gym, either because your membership is included in your student fees (if you are a student) or because you’ve made taking care of yourself a priority (if you pay for your membership). Feel the strength that you are building in your body and relish in the idea that with every work out you are getting mentally and physically stronger. Marvel at the fact that you can increase that strength over time. Remember a time when you were a child and you found joy in exercise, perhaps in a sport such as t-ball, or maybe just running through a field of milkweed as the fluff flew in the air around you.

It can be hard to introduce savouring into your life, as we're so often focused on doing multiple things at a time and quickly, but if you set aside time for savouring it can help increase your positive emotions. To increase your ability to savour take pictures of the moment and then go back to them later and remember how you were feeling at that time, or write down what was good about the experience soon after it happens to go back to later and remind yourself about how much you enjoyed it. You can find more information about savouring and other strategies in Akhtar's book, Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression.

Source: Akhtar, Miriam. Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression. London, 2012: Watkins Media Limited.

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