The Power of Joy
Pause and Savor
A couple of weeks ago, time found a way to erase itself, which is pretty unusual, because in my experience the passage of time is pretty evident. I see it in the lines on my face, the adults emerging in my kids, and the leaves that are falling from the trees. But as I sat in a rented house with four friends from high school recently, two of whom I haven’t seen in something crazy like 40 years, in that room, we were all 17-years-old again. We didn’t see each other as the wives, businesswomen, and moms that we are now. We were just dear friends, gathering after the loss of one of us to a stroke in June.
We brought pictures of the teenagers we once were and laughed and laughed at the, “Remember when’s?” We cried for our friend, and as the weekend progressed, the long ago inside jokes poured out of us as naturally as if we had just said them yesterday, not four decades ago.
“How could we still feel this close?” We asked. Could it have something to do with the intensity of those coming of age years with their first loves, their first losses, and their ignition of independence and big dreams? All of the above, I suppose. And then came the regret. How did we let so much time go by? We had excuses. There were no cell phones back then, no internet, no computers, no email. It wasn’t easy to stay in touch once we moved around to different parts of the country. We lost each other’s phone numbers and focused on our jobs, our husbands, our children (14 among us!), and the details of all that comes with being multi-faceted women.
But none of that mattered anymore, because we found each other again. We pledged to make it a yearly thing, this sacred gathering when we all hit the pause button and go back to a time that’s gone, but isn’t. At The Wisdom Coalition, we often talk about the danger of looking in the rear view mirror too much. If you want to go forward, you have to keep your eyes looking ahead of you. But sometimes I think looking back at where you came from helps to give you the energy, the power, and the love to keep moving forward.
This experience reminds me that it is up to me to create the life I want, to surround myself with people who make me feel whole, supported, and treasured. I’m reminded that these bonds we create with other people are like an intricate spider web that just wraps all over us. I’m reminded that time does what it wants and I can’t beat it or deny it. I’m dedicated to the idea that pausing and savoring are the only things I can control, the only things I can do to make my life better. Pause and savor. Pause and savor. Rinse and repeat. That’s what makes your heart full of love and peace!
The Power of Why
Savor the past, present and future
Nancy and I were struck by the irony of her weekend with her high school friends aligning with my high school reunion. We came to the conclusion that there was a lesson here for us to learn and to share; and for me, that lesson was the importance of savoring.
Positive Psychology defines savoring as “attending, appreciating, and enhancing positive experiences that occur in one’s life.” Savoring involves more than just experiencing pleasure though; in essence it involves mindfulness and conscious attention to the experience of pleasure.
Positive psychology experts have discovered three types of savoring:
- Savoring the past, also known as reminiscence. For example, remembering meaningful moments from school with a friend.
- Savoring the present or savoring the moment. For instance, enjoying a meal by engaging all five of your senses.
- Savoring the future, also referred to as anticipation. For example, visualizing the trip you have planned in the future.
Studies have shown there are significant benefits to savoring including:
- counterbalancing the experience of unpleasant emotions during stressful events
- boosting happiness in people who experience fewer daily positive events
- higher levels of life satisfaction, happiness, and perceived control
- decreased symptoms of depression and anxiety
So how do we create a practice for savoring? Positive Psychology promotes wellbeing through proactive exercises called interventions. Here are some positive psychology interventions for past, present and future savoring.
Past-focused savoring interventions
- actively reflect on your thoughts and emotions related to a positive experience
- use memorabilia or positive imagery to reminiscence about positive events
- write down the details of the positive event, and reflect on the reasons why it happened
Present-focused savoring interventions
- Take a daily 20-minute walk while trying to notice as many positive elements as possible
- Take meaningful and awe-inspiring photographs and look at them when you need a mood boost
Future-oriented savoring interventions
- Visualize positive events that are likely to happen tomorrow or in the near future
- Think about the impermanence of a positive event to recognize the value of savoring it
It’s important to note that researchers have found no significant differences between past, present, and future-oriented savoring interventions. The results showed that the strength of their effectiveness was related to the length of the intervention over time and the frequency of the intervention. So what matters most is that you regularly make time to engage in the practice of savoring.