Are You Sabotaging Your Happiness?

When was the last time you ‘stopped to smell the roses’?  Let’s face it in a world where our devices are always on, it can be hard to make time to just stop and take in the wonder of the world around us.  But could racing to tick all those tasks off your list every day, actually be undermining your happiness?

“One of the enemies of enjoying our moments is trying to get through things as quickly as possible – so we can move onto the next challenge or commitment or thing that needs doing,” explained Fred Bryant,  from Loyola University in Chicago, and co-author of  Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience when I interviewed him recently.  “But rather than waiting for positive experiences to find you, you can be proactive in seeking out opportunities to make the most of everyday moments.”

Fred’s research has found that being able to slow down and savor the good things in your life can improve your emotional and physical wellbeing.   Savoring involves noticing something pleasant –such as a rainbow after the storm, finally completing that project that’s been hanging over your head, being congratulated for a job well done, or reliving a happy memory with your family – and then taking the time to tune in to and appreciate your good feelings.   It’s immersing yourself in the feelings of awe, wonder, gratitude or pride that accompany these moments.   

Studies have found that letting yourself be absorbed in this way and sharing your positive experiences with others can help you intensify or prolong these feelings and build good memories.   They can also broaden and build your general positive mood, and in doing so enhance your creativity, engagement, motivation, resilience and interpersonal relationships. 

“When you savor the good times that life offers, you can dance back and forth between being absorbed with the good that is happening outside of you and appreciating the inner glow this gives you,” said Fred.  “You can then look for ways to magnify and build on these positive feelings.”

Savoring can be more than just the present moment or past experiences.  You can also savor the anticipated joy of future events -planning a holiday or special event with family or friends or meeting your targets at work.  However, Fred has found that it can be harder to savor through anticipation, especially if you’re afraid that by doing so you may risk jinxing the good things that may happen.

Unfortunately, though for most of us there are a lot of killjoys that get in the way of us savoring.  For example, instead of paying attention to your positive experiences you might find your mind distracted and focused elsewhere – on your to-do list, worries, hassles, or thinking about the other things you should be doing.  And instead of appreciating a good moment for what it offers, you might find yourself imagining how it could have been better, lasted longer or have happened sooner.

So how can you improve your ability to savor?

Fred suggests three strategies to help you seek out and accentuate the joys in your workplace:

  • Savor the moment – notice the good times, and consciously focus on amplifying and celebrating these with others as they happen – it might be when you’ve hit your milestones, securing a new contract or creating a new product. Take time to bask in the pride of yours and others’ accomplishments.  Just be sensitive though to others’ feelings, as sometimes excessive celebration may come across as boastful or bragging if others feel envious or are threatened in some way by your success.
  • Anticipate joy – savor the positive emotions of looking forward to an upcoming future event. Imagine what it will be like if all goes well, and appreciate the good feelings you are looking forward to experiencing.   As a work team, you can anticipate the joy of reaching your milestones, accomplishing a great project, and making progress on your goals.  This savoring can help motivate you to keep going as it rewards your progress on the way.
  • Remember the good – find ways to savor the good that happens at work retrospectively. Instead of letting it recede into the past and disappear, you can appreciate the good feelings you’ve experienced by recalling and appreciating your hard work, triumphs and achievements. Reminiscing about the good times can help motivate and sustain you in times of struggle or difficulties.

How can you use savoring to increase your wellbeing and happiness?

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