Using savouring to expand our mindful experiences into appreciation
There is a great deal of information out there that suggests we should engage in being more mindfully in the present moment. This blog explores what this means, and considers whether savouring might be an alternative way to be present, whilst also being appreciative of the world around us.
What is mindfulness?
According to Gilbert and Choden (2013) mindfulness is the “deliberate intention to observe the activity of the mind in a non-judgemental way” (p.257). It is typical of many of us to be caught up in our thoughts and not be fully present with what we are doing, thinking and feeling at any given time. Mindfulness is really beneficial to encourage us to slow down, stop and be in the here and now. An important aspect of mindfulness is the intention to not judge. This is to accept how you feel, what you see, and simply accept what is. By being more aware of what we are feeling, thinking and doing, we can make more informed choices about our well-being and how we might impact other people.
Limitations of mindfulness
Mindfulness has many valuable benefits to us that are being used more and more in therapy and activities that help us cope with our hectic lives. But like all interventions there are limitations. For instance Kashdan and Biswas-Diener (2015) tell us we need to be ‘mindless’ sometimes. We cannot sustain mindfulness all the time. We rely on the subtle messages picked up subconsciously, where we make sense of the complex world quietly in the background as we move through our day.
Mindfulness is also always in the present moment. So this state is not much use when you want to be creative, to spend time working out a future problem, or understanding a past event. Instead, what we could do is use savouring.
What is savouring?
Savouring isn’t all that different to mindfulness, in as much as it is taking notice of a particular experience or sight, and being present within it. Where the difference lie is, as Lyubomirsky (2007) explains, savouring can be past, present, and future. It is therefore more flexible as a way to notice what is happening. Of course, by its very nature, it is a positive experience, as we don’t want to savour things that are not nice!
Savouring prolongs an enjoyable experiences that we are having, have had, or that we anticipate we’ll have. It might be recalling a time with someone close, enjoying the colours of autumn as you walk along a path or thinking of an event that you are going to. Where mindfulness tries not to judge a situation as good or bad, savouring actively judges something as good and holds onto it. A benefit of savouring then is that once savoured an experience can linger in our memory, and even when we become mindless and stop actively thinking about something, it can boost our mood. In fact, savouring often allows us to drift into dream state where we are mindlessly thinking about the savoured moment.
Using savouring to appreciate the world
We can introduce savouring into our lives by taking time out to reflect on a past event, or be present in the current moment when that moment is enjoyable. You might decide to watch your family chatting across the table, or to savour doing a favourite sport or hobby. It doesn’t have to be a unique and extraordinary event; it’s about appreciating life as it is. Whether you use savouring for the past, present or future, building time into your weekly routine to stop and think of something good will not only give you the space to calm down from a busy life and tune into your well-being needs, but it will also boost your feel good emotions.
And you don’t need to do this alone. When you savour with other people, the beneficial endorphins increase!
Gilbert, P. & Choden (2013). Mindful compassion. London: Robinson
Kashdan, T. & Biswas-Diener, R. (2015). The power of negative emotions. London: One world
Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness. London: Piatkus
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